Plans for the Southwest Transitway, a light-rail line that would run from the Southern metropolitan area to downtown Minneapolis, are materializing, and a Minneapolis City Council commission on Thursday reviewed initial proposals for the five Minneapolis stations planned for inclusion on the line.
The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority recommended one of three proposed routes in November for the line.
Designated the Kenilworth-Opus-Golden Triangle Alignment, the line will run through St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Edina and Minnetonka on its way from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
“We’ve identified major mobility issues in the southwest quadrant of the metro area,” Hennepin County Transit Planner Adele Hall said. “The Southwest Transitway would provide a reverse commute for folks living in Minneapolis to get out to the suburbs as well as providing, obviously, service for suburbanites coming into the city.”
Hennepin County obtained $300,000 in planning funds from the federal government for the five Minneapolis stations on the line. Some preliminary planning and environmental impact work has already begun and Principal City Planner Amanda Arnold said the results will be brought before the City Council early next year.
Final design of the estimated $1.25 billion, 15-mile line is set occur before 2014, for a 2017 opening.
The line, which will cost about $15 million to operate annually, is also planned to connect with the Hiawatha and Central Corridor light-rail lines, as well as the Northstar commuter rail line.
Although a funding source is unknown at this point, a sales tax, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority and the state of Minnesota would cover about half of the cost of the project, with the federal government expected to finance the remainder.
Hall cited congestion and a lack of significant planned road expansion as part of the motives behind the expansion of a rail line into the Southwest metro.
“It’s a key candidate for a major transportation improvement,” she said.