Designers preview light rail sketches

by Robin Huiras

Minneapolis commuters harboring visions of the physical appearance of light rail transit compared their personal images to preliminary sketches Wednesday evening.
A meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center, coordinated by the Metropolitan Council, allowed community members to voice their comments about the areas which will be affected by LRT.
The poster-sized sketches, created by a team of staff and students from the University’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture were designed to elicit ideas, comments and reaction about development that could unfold around any one station given land constraints, said Jim Parsons, interim media relations representative for Metropolitan Council.
“The overall response from community members was guarded optimism,” said Judy Hohmann, director of communications for Metropolitan Council. About 250 people attended the meeting, which shows a continuing high level of interest, she added.
Community members questioned many possible facets of the line: whether the route will be pedestrian friendly; the way buses will connect with the stations; parking availability when riding light rail; noise levels and overall safety, Hohmann said.
Additionally, groups opposing the reroute of Hiawatha Avenue, which is necessary to build LRT, voiced their concerns at the meeting.
But the general atmosphere was enthusiastic, Hohmann said.
“This is a positive sign. People are finally seeing something tangible,” she said.
The sketches themselves reflect elements of development for the six locations in South Minneapolis where stations will be built. Components of the prospective stations depicted in the sketches were at 46th Street, 38th Street, Lake Street, Franklin Avenue, and Cedar and Riverside avenues.
Mary Vogel, a senior research fellow in the Department of Landscape Architecture, said the six-member design team is quite excited about the opportunity to create drawings for the first-ever light rail in Minneapolis based on land use studies.
“We want to respect and enhance the unique characteristics of each of the neighborhoods,” Vogel said.
Part of the application process for federal light rail funding is demonstrating how land use will factor into light rail overall, Hohmann said. The price tag of the entire project, expected to be complete in 2003, is projected at $446 million.
Between commissioning the University to create the drawings and hiring the land use planning agency, the Metropolitan Council has spent about $40,000 on this phase of the project.
Hohmann said the Metropolitan Council will be submitting more specific drawings in February or March 1999. These drawings might not represent finality, but are another step in the process.