County to make space for Target Field crowds

Plans for the downtown area include expanded pedestrian space.

Hennepin County has proposed a new transit hub for Target field to accommodate the new light rail station there.  The hub would include more pedestrian space, parking, and train lines.

Joe Michaud-Scorza

Hennepin County has proposed a new transit hub for Target field to accommodate the new light rail station there. The hub would include more pedestrian space, parking, and train lines.

Danielle Nordine

With Target Field eventually becoming a meeting place for many of MinnesotaâÄôs rail lines âÄî including the Central Corridor âÄî Hennepin County is in a race against time to build a hub that could handle the traffic. By 2014, the Central Corridor, which will run through the University of Minnesota campus linking downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, will create a flow of more than 20,000 people through the area each day, Project Director Ed Hunter said. Within the next few months, the county will start studying the environmental effects of the project, Hunter said, which should take about a year. The project will also take at least two construction seasons to complete. âÄúWe barely have enough room to operate today, and thatâÄôs only with the Hiawatha and Northstar lines,âÄù Hunter said. âÄúWe need to get this done before the Central Corridor comes in or there will be some big problems.âÄù Plans for the area, which the county is calling the Interchange, include adding another light rail platform, more space for pedestrians, elevated tracks for future lines and space for parking. In the future, the Southwest Corridor and Bottineau lines will also meet at Target Field, and future plans for a high-speed rail to Duluth and Chicago also include stops at the station. Currently, trains and buses stop at Target Field more than 2,150 times daily, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said. The cost of the transit hub will be roughly $80 million, Hunter said, but that number could vary depending on final plans. One of the big aspects of the plan includes expanding pedestrian space, Hunter said. Right now there is little space to wait for trains or walk through the area. The plan includes building a two-acre pedestrian plaza by the stadium, Hunter said. The county also hopes to create easier access to the North Loop neighborhood and more areas for pedestrian crosswalks, Hunter said. The countyâÄôs Environmental Services Building would be demolished for the project and for parking space or a bus hub, he said. The plan also includes elevated tracks for future light-rail lines, which will ease access to the nearby Hennepin Energy Recovery Center. The county is footing the bill for designing the project but is hoping to receive federal and state funding for construction, McLaughlin said. The county hosted an open house to explain the preliminary plans to residents in the area, North Loop Neighborhood Association board member Karen Rosar said. She said it was too early to get a sense for the overall neighborhood reaction, but that the association is generally in favor of the project. City officials will also meet to discuss the project, and the county will hold public meetings to gather comments and suggestions. The public meetings should start before the end of the year, Hunter said. The current plan is in its preliminary stages, and the county will likely make changes, he said. âÄúThis is just the first iteration of the plan, and we expect that weâÄôll need to make changes,âÄù Hunter said. âÄúThatâÄôs why we want to get the plans out there and get the dialogue going with the city and neighborhood.âÄù