All Aboard! Minneapolis Condo Owners and Commuters Look Forward to Light Rail Plans
The Hiawatha light rail transit (LRT) has provided a growing number of commuters a viable alternative of transportation since it began operation in 2004. While its success has been nothing short of spectacular (ridership has already exceeded pre-construction estimates for the year 2020 according to the Metropolitan Council), its reach is limited, and its likely many Twin Citians have never even stepped foot on the train. That’s all about to change as rail development in the Twin Cities picks up steam (pun intended). Let’s have a look out the window and see what lies ahead.
Let’s start with the Hiawatha line, which spans 12 miles and links downtown Minneapolis with the airport and the Mall of America. The most notable change to the line is its recently completed extension to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. The extension creates a hub (to be called Minneapolis MultiModal) that now also services the Northstar commuter rail (Big Lake to Minneapolis), and will eventually service the Central Corridor LRT (St. Paul-Minneapolis).
Another notable change occurring along the Hiawatha line is work to lengthen the platforms at 10 stations. Due to such high demand, beginning in 2010 trains operating during rush hour service will consist of three-car trains, instead of two-car trains.
We all know Minneapolis and St. Paul have long been referred to as the “Twin Cities,” but let’s face it; there are few traits the two cities share in common (one being the weather, the other the Mississippi River). But come 2014, when the Central Corridor line is expected to begin service between Minneapolis and St. Paul, the two Metropolises’ will at long last be connected (at least physically). This summer the project reached a major milestone that cleared the way for the project to enter final design stage and apply for federal funding. Funding is expected to be approved and construction is scheduled to begin in 2010.
Anchoring the other end of the Central Corridor and creating a second transit hub will be the Union Depot, located in downtown St. Paul. The Depot will undergo a $150 million renovation that will eventually service the Central Corridor line, bus service, Amtrak and possibly high-speed rail. Construction is scheduled to begin at the end of 2010 after the U.S. Postal Service, which currently occupies a portion of the facility, move their operations to Eagan (Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, 12.10.09).
A proposed third line, the Southwest LRT, would service Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis neighborhoods, and Downtown Minneapolis where it would connect with other rail lines. The project is in the final stages of an 18-month environmental study, where the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority recently recommended a preferred route for the line. The 14-mile route would run from Downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie via the Kenilworth corridor. Depending on the timing of federal funding approvals, the Southwest LRT could be operational as soon as 2015. Following the Southwest line, the next major rail development could be the Bottineau line, which would connect Minneapolis and Maple Grove. Plans for this are in the very early stages.
No longer is light rail the only type of rail transportation in the Twin Cities. Commuter rail, which differs from light rail by having larger cars, providing more seating, operating less frequently (and at specific times as opposed to specific intervals) and at higher speeds, and connecting suburbs to city centers, now runs from Big Lake to Minneapolis, with stops along the way in Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley. Daily ridership in 2010 on the new Northstar commuter rail is expected to exceed 3,000 people (northstartrain.org).
Plans to connect the Twin Cities and Chicago via high-speed commuter rail are also underway, with as many as eight routes under review (Star Tribune, Kevin Giles, 12.23.09). Other regional centers, including Mankato, Wilmar, St. Cloud and Duluth, are also being considered.
As a Realtor in Minneapolis, I unfortunately don’t get to enjoy the benefits of rail as much as I’d like, but I continue to see strong demand from buyers and renters looking for Minneapolis condos that offer convenient access to the light rail. Recent improvements and future expansion of light rail will continue to set these properties apart and make them attractive options for years to come. A list of condos on the light rail in Minneapolis can be found on our web site. See you on the rail!
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