Nicollet-Central streetcar project gets a boost in investment

Efforts to bring modern streetcars to Minneapolis are moving ahead in 2014. The City Council voted unanimously to invest $4 million for the completion of planning and engineering work for a line through downtown Minneapolis along Nicollet and Central avenues. This work includes completing environmental review, refining stop locations, and finding a site for a streetcar operations and maintenance facility. This is a necessary step for the City to take in order to receive federal construction dollars.

Modern streetcar lines are a smaller, less-expensive form of light-rail transit. Unlike larger light-rail, modern streetcars don’t need their own dedicated space. Instead, they share traffic lanes with cars, with the tracks embedded in the roadway. 

Rail transit is also good at attracting residential and retail development. Rail transit is seen by investors and developers as a permanent amenity that attracts more residents and foot traffic to new developments for decades. The metro area sees more economic development around light-rail stops than it has historically seen around bus stops, and modern streetcars are expected to have a similar effect.

The Nicollet-Central corridor is an excellent place to build the metro area’s first modern streetcar line. The area is home to a large number of transit riders who take relatively short rides. There are also a high number of employers, residents, shopping districts, and hotels along this corridor, making it possible serve many types of riders all day and all evening.  Over 9,000 riders are projected to ride the line every weekday.

The Nicollet-Central line will cost approximately $200 million, and the City has already secured roughly a third of the funds needed. The City is now preparing to compete for Federal construction dollars.  The $4 million investment will help refine the current streetcar plans to increase the likelihood of receiving this needed federal funding.

For more information on the Nicollet-Central project, go to www.minneapolismn.gov/nicollet-central.

Published Dec 19, 2013