Target Field hub proposal on docket

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 29, 2012 - 10:50 PM

Funding for the Interchange project is in flux, but county officials still want public input.

The Interchange project, Henn-epin County's proposed rail transit hub in downtown Minneapolis that officials want to begin building this year, will go up for public review Wednesday.

Citizens' input will be collected during a hearing that evening to discuss possible effects of the $67.7 million proposal, designed to be downtown's premier transfer point for thousands of commuter and light-rail train passengers outside Target Field in the North Loop district.

It's one of the last steps in the Federal Transit Administration's environmental assessment process, which could be complete by the end of February.

That would leave money as the biggest remaining obstacle to breaking ground on the project.

Although the Interchange received a $10 million federal construction grant in December, the project was still $30 million short.

Hennepin County is seeking $19 million in bonding from the state this year, and project manager Ed Hunter said talks are underway with federal and Metropolitan Council leaders about other ways to close the gap.

He said he also expects to get proposals soon from private businesses that could generate revenue from commercial and retail development, parking management and naming rights for the Interchange's upper plaza area.

County commissioners have picked four firms to submit design-build construction proposals for the project and will make their final selection in early April.

Their hope is to get the work started so that the hub can be finished by the time the Central Corridor LRT line arrives in 2014 and doubles the number of trains, Hunter said.

If the funding gap shrinks, Hunter said, the County Board would probably prime the pump to get the project underway until the balance is covered.

The county, the Met Council, the federal government and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority so far have pledged $37.7 million.

"We've reached a political consensus across the board ... that this project is a real benefit to the regional transportation system," Hunter said.

The Interchange calls for a new passenger platform, extended tracks for railcar storage and a new plaza outside the Target Field light-rail station. It also includes 400 parking spaces under the plaza.

The public hearing will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Metro Transit's Fred T. Heywood office and garage building, 560 6th Av. N., Minneapolis.

Copies of the draft environmental assessment can be found at the Interchange website (theinterchange.net) and at the Minneapolis Central Library and the Metropolitan Council Robert Street library in St. Paul.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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