A key council committee signed off Tuesday on advancing two likely streetcar projects, along Nicollet Avenue and West Broadway.

The transportation and public works committee gave the green light to move forward with an environmental review and "pre-project development activities" on the proposed $200 million, 3.4-mile Nicollet Avenue streetcar line. They simultaneously approved moving forward with a jointly funded alternatives analysis to study the possibility of building streetcars along West Broadway in North Minneapolis.

The Nicollet corridor's alternatives analysis is largely complete, and the council has signed off on streetcars as their preferred mode of transit improvement along that avenue. The environmental assessment is expected to be completed in fall 2014.

They now need buy-in from the Metropolitan Council, which must recognize the Nicollet line in its Regional Transportation Policy Plan

That's important, because "it is expected that detailed engineering, implementation and operation of the Nicollet - Central Modern Streetcar will need to be led by the Metropolitan Council," according to the staff report.

The West Broadway line is intended to counterbalance the Bottineau light rail line largely skipping over north Minneapolis on its way to the suburbs.

The West Broadway alternatives analysis, which will compare the benefits of streetcars versus enhanced bus, will cost about $615,000. City staff expect that the cost will be shared by the city, Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council.

Planning for a third transit line -- possibly streetcars -- is also underway for the Midtown Corridor. That process is being led by the Metropolitan Council.