Transit options might grow

Jason Juno

Students someday might take trains or bus rapid transit to other points on campus and between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.

In its bonding bill this week, the Senate proposed that the Central Corridor, a possible transit line that would connect the two cities, receive funding, but the issue did not appear in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed bonding bill.

The House has not completed its bonding bill yet.

The Senate allocated approximately $5 million for engineering work, said Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County commissioner in District 4, which includes the University.

The line could be light rail or bus rapid transit. McLaughlin said he supports light rail in the University area, and an effort is under way to get funding for the Central Corridor in the House’s bill.

“I think that’s going to be an uphill battle,” he said.

He said that if the Central Corridor and Northstar commuter rail lines are built, students could ride from Big Lake, Minn., to the University. Students would take the Northstar commuter rail trains, get on the Hiawatha light rail line and then the Central Corridor, he said.

Currently, buses run from the Hiawatha line to the East Bank.

McLaughlin said the corridor line near campus might be a tunnel that runs underneath the campus. Then, it would go to St. Paul, mostly along University Avenue.

University policy-makers are a part of the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee, according to the group’s Web site.

The site said the group’s goal is to identify options that improve transportation by managing the growth of congestion. It also said it must meet the needs of the community in the area.

But the Northstar line, which would run from downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake, Minn., is on the top of Pawlenty’s list, said Brian McClung, the governor’s press secretary. Pawlenty put it in his bonding bill to stay eligible for federal money, McClung said.

Pawlenty is waiting for a study conducted by the federal government concerning the Central Corridor that assesses the cost-benefit analysis between light rail and bus rapid transit, McClung said.

Pawlenty sees the Central Corridor as part of the long-term transit system, McClung said.

The study is being conducted to see if light rail is eligible for federal funding. The Metropolitan Council must then make a decision, McLaughlin said.

It would take two years of engineering and then a state match of federal funds to build the line, he said.

Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub & Herbs, said she supports the Central Corridor if disruption to businesses and construction time is minimal.

She said she would like it “pretty close” to her business, but not too close. She currently has a bus stop next to her building and said she always has to clean up the area.