New light-rail line planned

University representatives to influence city’s light-rail expansion plan.

Brian Kushida

When Minnesota Student Association President Max Page took on an internship at the state Capitol last spring, he knew the long bus ride from the University involved some planning.

If Page took the route 50 bus, he could arrive at St. Paul in about 30 minutes. If he took the route 16 bus, it would take almost twice as long.

“I got a lot of good reading done,” Page said of his time spent on the bus.

Page joined the Central Corridor Community Advisory Committee earlier this month to help plan for the new light-rail transit system, which will connect Minneapolis and St. Paul.

He is among 42 representatives from the area appointed to the advisory committee by the Metropolitan Council Jan. 10. Kristen Denzer, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly vice president for student affairs, will also be on the committee.

It will meet monthly to provide input on the new light-rail’s design, access, traffic, parking, safety and community impacts during construction.

“(The light rail) will help students connect with both the rest of Minneapolis and St. Paul,” Page said.

Page said he will propose the idea of having the light-rail track go underground when it passes through campus for safety reasons.

He said he hopes an underground line will keep light-rail accidents on campus to a minimum.

Parking and Transportation Services Executive Director Bob Baker said an underground light-rail tunnel could prevent additional traffic congestion already caused by automobiles and pedestrians, making the campus safer.

“Safety is a fundamental concern for us,” Baker said, adding that approximately 16,000 students live within a one-mile radius of the proposed line.

Baker also said an underground tunnel would help keep the train schedule reliable since pedestrians won’t be able to slow it down.

Other committee members include representatives of local universities, nonprofit groups, and Twin Cities community councils.

Co-owner of Manhattan Loft and Stadium Village Commercial Association officer Julie Wild will also take part in providing input for the project. She will act as the go-between, linking the committee and the association, she said.

Although the light-rail expansion is still in the planning stages, Wild said she believes it is important for business owners to have a voice in the decision-making process since construction could tear up the roads in front of stores.

“Obviously that’s not advantageous for any business to have the front of your business inaccessible for any period of time,” she said.

Pi Kappa Alpha adviser Nick Rosenberry is also part of the advisory committee and said he will also represent the Minnesota Greek Alumni Partnership.

“I want to see (the light rail) running as soon as possible,” Rosenberry said.

The planned 11-mile expansion will allow passengers to ride from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul via a connection to the existing Hiawatha light rail at the Metrodome station.

The light rail is proposed to include 16 stops and would travel mainly along Washington and University avenues southeast.

Proposed stations on campus include the West Bank, East Bank and Stadium Village, said Metropolitan Council Manager of Public Involvement Robin Kaufman.

Construction is planned to start in 2010, with service beginning in 2014, according to a Metropolitan Council report.