A sleek new transit station at the Mall of America was officially dedicated Friday.
The $25 million Metro Transit station on the east side of the Bloomington megamall was actually completed in October, after a year of construction. The station serves passengers for the Blue Line light rail, the Red Line bus-rapid transit, and nine local bus routes, including the Route 5, one of the busiest transit thoroughfares in the state.
About 44 million customers visit the Mall of America every year, with nearly 3 million shoppers and employees using the station and transit as their entry point. "This is the biggest hub for transit in the state of Minnesota," said Metropolitan Chairman Charlie Zelle at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The proposed D Line rapid bus, connecting the mall to Brooklyn Center, as well as the Riverview streetcar, a link to downtown St. Paul, are slated to serve the stop as well. Those projects are dependent on future financing.
Rich Hoge, the mall's vice president, said first impressions of guests are important: "Now we can welcome the mall's visitors in style."
The renovation is the first major one for the station in a quarter century, although some upgrades were made in 2004.
"The nicest word I can think of to describe the old station is 'dank,' " said Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse. "This is absolutely wonderful. It's a front door for so many people."
The new station features polished concrete floors, mahogany-toned paneled walls, and a wide expanse of glass looking out onto the transit platform — plus escalators that deposit transit passengers right in the mall. The former station required passengers to walk outside before heading into the mall.
The upgrade was funded by $8.75 million from Minnesota state bonds; $7 million from the federal government; $5 million from the city of Bloomington; $2.25 million from the now-defunct Counties Transit Improvement Board through a transit sales tax, and $2 million from Metro Transit.
The upbeat ribbon-cutting Friday came after a week of challenging news for Metro Transit, as state legislators home in on safety issues on light-rail trains and buses. Last month, a verbal altercation between two men on the Blue Line began at the Mall of America, and one was fatally stabbed as the train moved along its route.