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New details are out this week on how the proposed Central Corridor light rail line will swing through the Capitol complex on its route from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul. Most of the route is along University Avenue before it swings south near the Capitol to eventually end near St. Paul’s Union Depot.
A team from the Metropolitan Council briefed the Capitol Restoration Working Group on the route this week, and the headline is: Access to the State Capitol building from the north will change when the rail is built, and the at-grade pedestrian crossing at University Avenue will be no more.
(Many of the details on the route aren’t exactly new, I admit. The route, which has been established for some time now, and everything else you’d like to know about the project are detailed here. But like the election, many of us don’t pay attention to long-term events at the early stages, and this light rail line keeps chugging closer and closer to reality. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2010, with the line operational in 2014.)
Engineers don’t want big hills — or grade changes, as they say — on the rail route, so when it swings by the Capitol, they want the grade to change no more than about 6 percent to 7 percent, so they’ll dig a trench of about 18 to 24 inches for the light-rail line at that point along University Avenue. Lower would be better, but then it would eliminate the tunnel from the Capitol to the Department of Administration building across the street, and Capitol denizens love those tunnels through the entire complex.
As explained by the House Information Office: Near the Capitol Complex, the line, as adopted by the Council in 2006, will extend along University Avenue, south on Robert Street, west on East 12th Street and south on Cedar Street across Interstate 94 into downtown St. Paul. Stations are projected for the intersection of Rice Street and University Avenue, and along Robert Street near the Department of Revenue. The route is intended, in part, to minimize impacts to the Capitol Mall.
A number of previous other designs were shown to the working group, but were rejected for a number of reasons, including fewer persons served, accessibility to other transit connections, service to various activity areas and traffic or operational impacts.
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said the proposed route likely will mean larger costs and increased transit times, but Mark Fuhrmann, project director for the Metropolitan Council, indicated the route best meets the key criteria for line service while staying within a cost-ratio index.
You can watch a video of the meeting here. Warning: It runs 1 hour and 29 minutes.