Don’t drop Central Corridor plans

A lot of energy has been spent in planning the new light-rail line.

The preliminary design plans for the new Interstate 35W bridge were unveiled yesterday, and some, including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, aren’t sold. Many see the rebuilding project as an opportunity to refit the Twin Cities infrastructure for the future by incorporating light-rail transit into the design. While light-rail rapid transit will be a large part of our future transportation system, jumping quickly to add it to the new bridge isn’t wise.

Opposition to adding light rail to the bridge comes from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Department of Transportation officials. Their reasons range from probable delay of bridge completion to concerns over the authorized use of emergency federal funding for an “equivalent structure” only.

We find the main reason to forget about LRT on the new bridge to be the current plans for the Central Corridor LRT – to have it cross the Mississippi over the Washington Avenue Bridge. Countless hours have been spent by countless individuals studying the ridership and environmental impact of the planned route from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul.

Even though the Metropolitan Council has declared that the Washington Avenue Bridge will need reinforcements to carry the weight of LRT trains, this shouldn’t be reason to botch the plan altogether. MnDOT officials have stated that it’s likely cheaper to strengthen the Washington Avenue Bridge than to add LRT to the I-35W bridge.

The new bridge will be a symbol of the future of transportation in Minnesota. It will serve a Minnesota that understands the importance of investing in all types of transportation and infrastructure, including the Central Corridor, the I-35W bridge and many other projects.