Many an innocent tree and pixel has died chronicling Southwest Light Rail Transit, a $1.74 billion project that’s projected to carry about 30,000 people a day when — and if — it’s built. Yet another transit project nearly as large is moving steadily ahead with little media fanfare.
The Orange Line, an express bus route, will connect Burnsville and downtown Minneapolis. It’s projected to carry nearly 27,000 riders a day — about 90 percent of the light rail’s traffic. Midway through its journey, the Orange Line will cut through the Southtown Shopping Center area in Bloomington on Knox Avenue S., then dive into a 16-foot trench to pass under Interstate 494.
The city of Bloomington, Southtown’s owners and Metro Transit are discussing exactly how that segment of the route will go. The current plan calls for a straight shot along Knox and under I-494. Southtown owner Kraus-Anderson Realty has suggested a loop that would carry the line to the east, wrapping around a retail/hotel complex planned for that end of the Southtown complex. The site is now the home of Lucky’s 13 Pub.
The straight-line plan would create a trench 200 feet long and 16 feet deep through the Southtown property, according to Kraus-Anderson spokesman Ken Vinje. “That’s detrimental to our future development,” he said.
Looping the buses around the east end of the complex would keep the property whole while adding only 13 seconds to each trip, Vinje said. A straight-line trench, he added, could inhibit Kraus-Anderson’s ability to put a new transit-oriented development on the Lucky’s 13 site.
Glen Markegard, Bloomington’s planning manager, said the city sees pros and cons with both proposed Orange Line routes.
Planners will be evaluating the approaches over the next few months, but the final routing decision will be up to Metro Transit.
My take: Don’t bet against Kraus-Anderson on this one. The company has a recent track record of driving a hard bargain with the government and getting a better offer on the table.