The Ramsey County Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to support a new kind of streetcar service along the W. 7th Street corridor in St. Paul, approving the route and propelling the project forward.
The 12-mile Riverview Corridor “modern” streetcar line would connect Union Depot in St. Paul to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America.
But the project, which is expected to cost between $1.4 billion and $2 billion to build, is about 13 years away from beginning passenger service. Daily ridership is projected to reach 20,400 by 2040.
A modern streetcar is similar to light rail, except it operates largely in traffic.
“After years of community conversations, detailed technical study and careful deliberation, we affirm our commitment today to complete the connection of the region’s top three economic activity centers with rail transit,” Rafael Ortega, Ramsey County Commissioner and chairman of the Riverview Policy Advisory Committee, said in a statement.
After crossing the Mississippi River on a new bridge, the Riverview route shares Blue Line tracks beginning at the Fort Snelling LRT stop, where it would continue to the airport and Bloomington megamall. The line would also use Green Line LRT tracks at Union Depot and in downtown St. Paul.
Officials with Hennepin County, St. Paul, Bloomington and the Metropolitan Airports Commission have passed resolutions supporting the streetcar route. However, the plan has attracted criticism from some businesses along W. 7th Street worried about the loss of parking and a long construction period.
Transit planners will now begin environmental review, design and engineering. Construction could begin as soon as 2028. The Federal Transit Administration will be asked to pay for about half of the project.