Federal grant boosts Minneapolis streetcar plans

Minneapolis will receive a $900,000 federal grant to study the best transit improvements on two of the City's long-term streetcar network corridors, Nicollet and Central avenues between Columbia Heights and 46th Street South. Transit alternatives under the study include streetcar lines and enhanced bus systems. The future circulator would connect downtown to existing densely populated, mixed‐use urban neighborhoods and complement the LRT system both downtown and citywide.

Other states that completed their planning work a few years ago are building streetcars today – with federal help. In the last 14 months, the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $408 million to build streetcar lines in Atlanta; Cincinnati; Dallas; New Orleans; Salt Lake City; St. Louis; Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Portland, Ore. and Tucson, Ariz.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) award is an important step in implementing Minneapolis’ vision for a permanent network of frequent, reliable, high-quality transit lines along densely populated commercial corridors. This network is key to the City's goals for increasing transit ridership and catalyzing transit-oriented redevelopment. Streetcar lines or enhanced bus service along Nicollet and Central avenues would provide circulation in downtown Minneapolis along Nicollet Mall and through densely populated, mixed-use neighborhoods along Central and Nicollet avenues.

The Nicollet-Central Urban Circulator Alternatives Analysis project will evaluate and select the best transit improvements for Nicollet Avenue from the 46th Street Bus Rapid Transit station to Nicollet Mall in downtown and Central Avenue from the Columbia Heights Transit Center to Nicollet Mall via Hennepin and First avenues north. The competitively awarded Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant and a $300,000 local match will pay for the $1.2 million study.

Minneapolis project is one of 24 grants awarded through the FTAs Alternative Analysis grant program; $25.7 million in funds were awarded. The Alternatives Analysis grant program is the first key milestone in the FTA New Starts process the primary source for federally funded transit projects. Conducting an "alternatives analysis" ensures that various costs and benefits, route options, and other important considerations are taken into account as part of FTAs capital planning process, known as New Starts. See the winning project proposals.

Published Dec. 22, 2010