University keeps a close eye on transit project

The Central Corridor transit line would connect Minneapolis, St. Paul and the University.

by Derrick Biney

As the University undergoes major changes over the next few years, from realignment to a new Gophers stadium, one goal has yet to be achieved.

The Board of Regents had its monthly facilities committee meeting Thursday to discuss renovations to University buildings, purchasing real estate at 2301 and 2331 through 2335 University Ave. S.E., 2328 Fourth St. S.E. and the Central Corridor transit project.

Of the presented topics, the Central Corridor project – a proposal to create an 11-mile transit line connecting downtown Minneapolis, downtown St. Paul and the University – is a topic people need to pay attention to, said Dave Metzen, committee chairman and regent.

Kathleen O’Brien, vice president for University Services, and Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services, presented the latest developments with the project.

Baker said forms of transportation other than driving a car are popular among people who live and commute in the Twin Cities.

To illustrate this statement he provided results of research to support this claim.

Baker brought issues relating to the design of a light-rail system to the committee’s attention, such as traffic congestion, heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic, alignment of the track and the design and accessibility of stations.

“We don’t have all the solutions, but we are well aware of the problems,” Baker said.

Metzen said all committee members are going to have to stay alert about the latest developments with the project.

Before they give their input or ask questions, “it’s best if they wait for staff to give their recommendations,” he said.

Metzen said he was pleased that the staff tries its best to stay informed. He said his concerns are where the stops will be and how the design of a tunnel will work out – whether it will be an above or underground track.

The committee is waiting for the Metropolitan Council to authorize moving ahead with the project before it votes on it, O’Brien said.

The state of Minnesota has appropriated $5.25 million for preliminary engineering of the line, to be matched by the Federal Transit Administration, Baker said.

If the administration approves the cost-effectiveness of the project, the Met Council would release a draft of the environmental impact study for public comment.

Construction could begin within five years, according to Baker.

According to Central Corridor project estimates, 11,000 to 12,000 of the line’s 43,000 daily riders in 2030 would be generated by the University.