West Bank gets final look at local light-rail plans

Andy Skemp

As light-rail transit moves in on Minneapolis with increasing speed, it is meeting mixed reactions from the public — especially in the Cedar-Riverside area.
The preliminary design of the Hiawatha Corridor light-rail transit system was put up for public review Thursday at a hearing hosted by the Transportation and Public Works Committee of the Minneapolis City Council.
The meeting provided a chance for public input on any revisions to the plan before it goes before the council Sept. 24.
“We hold public hearings because valuable comments do affect our decisions,” said Dore Mead, chairman of the Transportation and Public Works Committee of the Minneapolis City Council.
Station location and track path were among the more commonly voiced concerns during citizen testimonies.
A loop of track near the West Bank that would run behind Cedar-Riverside Plaza received criticism from residents who feel that the land might be better used for other purposes.
“We’ve got very limited space between the highways and the river,” said Pete Goelzer, former chairman of the Cedar-Riverside Business Association. “Business and residential space is going to grow in the area.”
The loop would serve as a turn-around for trains that are leaving a storage and repair shop located south of Interstate 94 on Franklin Avenue .
Mike Schadauer, Minnesota Department of Transportation light-rail project development engineer, said the loop is more convenient for loading trains back onto the track in the morning and for maintenance activities.
Schadauer said though other locations for the loop had been considered, none were logistically possible.
Another concern with the MnDOT plans is the location of the station in the Cedar area.
The original plans show a station near the west side of The Cedars apartment buildings. A new proposed station would be located on 16th Street and Cedar Avenue, just north of I-94.
“Some in The Cedars apartment buildings worried about an increase in noise and loss of green space, while others believe the safety and long-term business development would be greatly increased by the new station,” Mead said.
Though the addition would add an extra $1.6 million to construction costs, some feel the added business would compensate in the long run.
“The extra traffic on Cedar Avenue will pay back that money and more,” said Paul Rogers, co-chairman of the Cedar-Riverside Business Association. “The original location just won’t bring as much business.”
Even if the city council votes in favor of the new plans, they may still include a list of desired changes.
Although the West Bank stop is the closest to the University, it is not considered the most efficient by University planners.
The University will focus on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome station for those traveling to and from the University, said to Bob Baker, head of University Parking and Transportation Services.
Baker said the Metrodome stop would offer the best service and be most convenient because the Route 16 bus line, which travels through the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses, would be easily accessible from the station site.

Andy Skemp covers environment and transit and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at 612-627-4070 x3238