FTA Approves Blue Line Extension LRT For Engineering Phase
The project to build a light rail line connecting the suburbs northwest of Minneapolis to downtown cleared a major hurdle Jan 19 when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) gave the Blue Line Extension LRT Project a green light to start the engineering phase of the project. The Blue Line will connect downtown Minneapolis to northwest metro and create 6,500 construction jobs.
Th FTA approval comes only a month after the Southwest LRT, Green Line Extension Project received the same approval. The engineering work is necessary for project staff to finalize designs in preparation for the start of construction in 2018.
“Our region has a strong reputation nationally for successfully delivering on transit projects,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck. “We will apply in fall 2017 for the Full Funding Grant Agreement and anticipate receiving that federal commitment in early 2018. The Blue Line Extension has achieved this milestone because the project has support at the federal and local levels and from the business community as well.”
When the extension projects are complete, residents will be able to access jobs, education, health facilities, entertainment, and services with a one-seat ride or one transfer in downtown Minneapolis. This includes 10 of the region’s 17 Fortune 500 companies, the University of Minnesota and a number private colleges, six sports venues/stadiums, Hennepin County Medical Center and the VA Medical Center, Mall of America, and the two terminals of the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
“The Blue Line Extension LRT Project will create an estimated 6,500 construction jobs, totaling $300 million in payroll for workers, who will come from all over the state,” project director Dan Soler said. When the 13-mile line opens in 2021, it will provide access to about 155,000 jobs along the line and in downtown Minneapolis. By 2035, this number is expected to grow to 180,000 jobs.
The corridor is already seeing new investment. Recent development along the Blue Line Extension, which will begin construction in 2018 and open in 2021, had reached $358 million in spring 2016. Much of the commercial and industrial development is occurring within a half mile of the planned Brooklyn Blvd, 85th Ave, 93rd Ave, and Oak Grove Parkway stations.
The FTA cleared the Blue Line Extension’s environmental review in September 2016, paving the way for the project to advance designs to a 60 percent level of detail by the end of the first three months of this year.
The project has received local funding commitments from the Counties Transit Improvement Board, Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, City of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Hennepin County. Next steps include securing the remaining 10 percent of local funding before applying this fall for the federal funding commitment and advancing designs to a 90 percent level of detail in the third quarter and to 100 percent by the end of the year for the civil or heavy construction.
The Full Funding Grant Agreement would commit the FTA to pay 49 percent of the capital costs of the project, or $753 million.
About The Project
The planned METRO Blue Line Extension (Bottineau) light rail transit project will operate about 13 miles northwest from downtown Minneapolis through north Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Brooklyn Park, drawing riders northwest of Brooklyn Park. The proposed alignment will have 11 new stations in addition to Target Field Station, where it will continue as the METRO Blue Line, providing one-seat rides to Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport and the Mall of America. It will connect Minneapolis and the region’s northwest communities with existing LRT on the METRO Green Line, future LRT on the METRO Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT), bus rapid transit on the METRO Red Line, the Northstar commuter rail line, and local and express bus routes.
The Metropolitan Council will be the grantee of federal funds and is charged with building the line in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The Blue Line Extension Corridor Management Committee, which includes local officials from Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal, Brooklyn Park, and Minneapolis, provides advice and oversight. Funding is provided by the FTA, Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA), and the State of Minnesota.