A light-rail line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie would cost more than $1 billion on the two most popular routes under consideration, and an estimated 28,000 to 30,000 people would ride it every day, according to figures released today by project officials.

The figures show that just one of the routes -- known as 3A, skirting Cedar Lake -- is likely to qualify for all-important federal approval and funding, which points toward selection of that route later this fall.

"We have a project the Federal Transit Administration will find very competitive and want to support," said Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman of the 3A alternative.

Dorfman chairs the group of suburban, Minneapolis, county and transit officials who are studying prospects for the rail line.

After years of study, the estimates released today gave the first look at what it would cost to build a southwest rail line and how many people would ride it.

Katie Walker, manager of the project for Hennepin County, said that strong projected daily ridership for 2030 makes it clear that a light rail line on Route 3A could deliver the travel time savings that the Federal Transit Administration requires before it allows a project to move to the next step of preliminary engineering.

The Hiawatha Light Rail has about 30,000 riders a day.

Officials are scheduled to recommend a preferred route to Hennepin County this fall.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711