February 27, 2019 10:06 PM
A possible streetcar line planned for the Twin Cities took a big step forward on Wednesday. The Riverview Corridor would connect downtown St. Paul to the Mall of America.
The Metropolitan Council voted to add the Riverview Corridor project to its 2040 Transportation Plan. The project now enters the environmental analysis phase.
“It’s a major artery into the city, it also crosses the Mississippi River,” said Rafael Ortega, the District 5 county commissioner. “It is important to many Native American tribes, so we need to connect with them. We have at least a dozen national agencies like the National Parks Service and Army Corps of Engineers we have to engage with.”
Ortega is also the chair of the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.
“The more information and engineering we do, the more input we get from all of these folks including the community, the closer we are to making a good decision," he said.
The nearly 12-mile route will start at the Green Line Light Rail Station at the Union Depot. It will share those tracks before breaking off onto its own route on W. 7th St., near Xcel Energy Center. The streetcar will travel along W. 7th St. to Fort Snelling, where it will meet up with the Blue Line and share those tracks to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and then the Mall of America.
There will be 20 stations along the route. It will be an estimated 44-minute travel time.
“This is going to be very important,” said Ortega. “It will have all of the amenities of the light rail but it will be a smaller vehicle that fits the corridor because it's a very narrow corridor. I think along with it, we can do a lot to enhance the viability of the corridor with landscaping and other features like lighting.”
Businesses along W. 7th St. are in limbo while they wait for the plans to be finalized. The environmental analysis is expected to last three years.
“All along my concerns have been cost,” said Pat Mancini, co-owner of Mancini’s. “When it gets up into the $2 billion range it's a little scary for a city like St. Paul to absorb that kind of money.”
He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he’s also worried about how construction will affect business owners.
“We just really have a lot of old time business on W. 7th, a lot of old family run businesses,” he said. “I would just hate to lose any due to construction or the amount of pressure it will put for parking.”
Construction is still years away. According to the county, it will likely be 2030 or later before the streetcar is operating.
Updated: February 27, 2019 10:06 PM
Created: February 27, 2019 09:56 PM
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