Metro Travel (2000 & beyond)

Alternative modes of transportation for the Twin Cities Metro area continue to be a major issue. This is an update on the latest transit developments, including those projects addressed by the 1999 Legislative Session.

A Regional Master Plan for transit must be developed for the Twin Cities Metropolitan area by the Metropolitan Council, and submitted to the state legislature by February 1, 2000. The plan must include balanced development of both bus and rail based on population and job densities; redevelopment and reinvestment opportunities; transit dependent segments of the population; and adequacy of existing transportation. This plan is currently in the formative stages.

The state legislature appropriated $109.9 million to Metro Transit to operate the region's bus system during the next biennium. This level of funding should enable Metro Transit to maintain the current level of service without a fare increase, but does not allow for expansion of service. Since ridership figures are increasing in the Twin Cities, supplemental funds will likely be sought at the next session.

$60 million was appropriated for light rail transit (LRT) in the Hiawatha Corridor (downtown Minneapolis to the airport and the Mall of America). This is in addition to the $40 million from the 1998 Legislature for the project. The $100 million is contingent upon the project receiving a "final design" recommendation by May 1, 2000, from the Federal Transit Administration and an agreement by January 31, 2001, committing the Federal Government to at least $223 million of the total cost of the project. Currently, estimated costs for the LRT project have been readjusted upward to $548 million and pared-down design has shorter trains, three fewer stations, and is two blocks shorter on each end of the line than previously planned.

Ramsey County received $12 million for the Riverview Corridor in St. Paul; the Central Corridor between St. Paul and Minneapolis; and commuter rail between the two downtown's. Of the $12 million, $3 million is for transit in the Riverview Corridor, and the remaining $9 million is for engineering studies in those three areas. With the exception of the Hiawatha Corridor project, any state or federal assistance for LRT must next be appropriated to the Riverview or Central Corridors in St. Paul before any other. The Riverview Corridor will have a major investment study by the end of 1999, and has an agreement with Metro Transit on bus improvements to be incorporated in the corridor now.

The Commissioner of Transportation must adopt a commuter rail system plan by January 15, 2000. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) will be responsible for planning, developing, constructing, and operating commuter rail. The intent is to build on the results of the recently completed Twin Cities Metropolitan Commuter Rail Feasibility Study. MNDOT may enter into a contract with public and private entities, including county and regional rail authorities, to perform these responsibilities. However, county rail authorities may not apply for or spend state and federal funds to plan or develop light rail or commuter rail, unless it is consistent with a plan adopted by the Metropolitan Council or MNDOT.

Corridor committees consisting of representatives from cities, counties, and regional rail authorities in the proposed commuter rail corridors have been formed. Their responsibility is to plan for the development of commuter rail and other transit improvements in each corridor by addressing transportation, safety, environmental, financial, and land use issues. The Regional Rail/Transit Joint Powers Board, a coalition of county commissioners from each of the seven metro counties, is an advocacy for transit needs and for securing funds for transit development and operations in the region. In addition to attending the monthly meeting of the Joint Powers Board, this office sends representation to the following corridor committee meetings: Red Rock (Hastings to St. Paul); Rush Line (St. Paul to Rush City); and Northstar (Minneapolis to St. Cloud). Attendance at the Northstar Committee is to insure a seamless connection between the east and west metro areas and to advocate for the best interests of the east metro.

Public awareness and involvement is a vital aspect of the ongoing debates regarding transit improvements in the metro. It is important that the public participates in this process, obtain information, and convey their thoughts to elected officials.

Lake Owasso | County Manager Resigns | Integrated Health Care | Meet the Support Staff | Upcoming Events

Commissioner Rettman's Home Page