Work has begun on a $25 million renovation of the Mall of America transit station — the busiest transit hub in the state.
The station serves as the terminus for the Blue Line light rail and Red Line bus-rapid transit service, as well as several bus lines. It is the facility's first major renovation in 25 years, although a more-modest upgrade was done in 2004 when the Blue Line began service.
"This transit center is a critical hub for our entire region," Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff said at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. "Thousands of people come here every day, whether headed to work, to shop or take in entertainment, or simply a connection point as they head home for the day."
A big part of the overhaul includes creating a safer, bus-only entrance on the eastern side of the Bloomington megamall, which is now also used by employee, contractor and transit vehicles. Metro Transit says this will cut down on the time delay created by traffic backups. Buses will no longer cross the light-rail tracks, as well.
The transit center will provide customers and employees with a direct connection to the mall's east entrance. More than 5,600 boardings now occur at the station daily.
The station will also include better lighting, a family restroom, emergency telephones and real-time departure signs. A new police substation will be built along with a transit operator breakroom. Construction is expected to be completed in late 2019.
Funding for the project came from Bloomington, Metro Transit, state bonds, federal grants and the former Counties Transit Improvement Board, which raised money through a local sales tax for transit.
"Not only will this transit station offer the convenience that consumers have come to expect, but it will act as a beautiful pedestrian pathway from the Mall to the gateway of the south loop district of Bloomington," said Kurt Hagen, Mall of America senior vice president of development.