Letter of the day: Light rail on Washington Av. makes most sense

  • Updated: April 28, 2008 - 6:33 PM

A representative of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association (letter, April 26) inaccurately implied that the Metropolitan Council initially approved a plan for the Central Corridor light-rail transit line that included a tunnel under Washington Avenue. That simply is not accurate.

In June 2006, when the council approved a recommendation for LRT on University and Washington avenues, Chairman Peter Bell warned that the cost of the project would have to come down if it were to meet federal cost-effectiveness requirements and win federal matching funds essential for construction. Chairman Bell specifically said that a tunnel, costing $200 million or more, was one of several features that would have to be carefully scrutinized during preliminary engineering.

Further study determined that a tunnel simply was too expensive, but that light rail would work on Washington Avenue as part of a transit-pedestrian mall. The university countered by resurrecting the so-called "northern alignment" through Dinkytown. Bell agreed to listen to the U's arguments, but warned that making such a major change in the alignment would likely delay the project for a year and add at least $40 million in inflationary costs.

It is important to understand that the northern alignment is one of dozens of options that had been carefully evaluated and rejected years earlier during the corridor "alternatives analysis," which was led by Ramsey County.

It's clear that during the last two decades, "all of the options" for improved transit in the Central Corridor have been studied and the best one has emerged -- a light-rail line with an auto-free, transit-pedestrian mall on Washington Avenue.

STEVEN DORNFELD, ST. PAUL; PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, METROPOLITAN COUNCIL

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