To realize its potential, Southwest and Bottineau light rail are needed.
Despite not opening until June 14, there’s already significant commercial development along the Green Line (Central Corridor) light-rail route, the Metropolitan Council reported Wednesday. Not counted among those projects, but perhaps most notable, is Target Field Station, which has its grand opening on Saturday.
Civic, business and political leaders will attend, as well as thousands headed to Target Field for the Twins game. No worries on crowd control, however. The station is designed for big crowds not just on game days, but on workdays, as well.
The bookend to the refurbished Union Depot in St. Paul, Target Field Station is designed for multimodal purposes. Bikes already glide by on the Cedar Lake Trail. Nearby buses will connect to downtown and beyond. The Northstar commuter rail will stop there, and once the Green Line opens and joins the Blue Line (also known as Hiawatha), there will be about 470 daily departures or arrivals of light-rail and commuter-rail trains.
Most of the station’s $85.2 million original budget will come from multiple public sources, with about a third of the investment from the federal government, 30 percent from Hennepin County, 20 percent from the state, and the rest from municipal sources and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority. There’s private funding, too. The Minnesota Twins and United Properties are investing more than $3.6 million combined.
Expanded transit use creates environmental benefits. But Target Field Station extends these benefits. Heat from the adjacent Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (commonly called the garbage burner) will melt snow on sidewalks and heat portions of some nearby buildings. Cisterns will keep runoff from getting into the water system and will be used to cool ash in the HERC, which will save 950,000 gallons of water a year.
The station is meant to be used for more than transit. It’s also a place to linger, before or after a Twins or a Timberwolves game, an event at Target Center, or at any time. The station has a large video board, green space, an amphitheater and retail.
It already is having a positive impact on downtown development, and is the first major element of the Downtown Council’s 2025 plan to be built. Nearby North Loop residential, retail and office construction continues at a blistering pace, replacing what was acres of desolate parking lots. The neighborhood and ballpark spurred the surge, of course, but the transit hub will solidify, and add to it. In fact, the very design leaves room to accommodate new development.
Most important, it also plans for expanded transit options, including the planned Green Line extension (Southwest light rail) and the proposed Blue Line extension (Bottineau). The station’s just the latest indication that transit spurs development — and development means jobs. Among Southwest’s many attributes is that it would connect not just suburban workers with downtown jobs, but city residents — many from disadvantaged communities — with the job-rich southwestern suburbs.
Now Minneapolis City Council members and Mayor Betsy Hodges need to find a way to green-light the Green Line extension. The clock is ticking on granting the Metropolitan Council municipal consent. Negotiations are necessary, and plan modifications should be expected. But voting “no” would likely mean that ambitions to expand the existing transit system will not soon, if ever, be realized. Meanwhile, competitive metropolitan regions are racing ahead of the Twin Cities in developing transit deemed essential to recruiting and retaining a competitive workforce.
Target Field Station is an impressive and important component to Target Field, the North Loop, downtown Minneapolis and transit. But it will not realize its full potential until political leaders show leadership and get behind a fully integrated transit system.
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