Minneapolis Snags $900,000 for Nicollet Avenue Streetcar Study
It was one of 24 grants awarded nationwide by the Federal Transit Administration to study alternative transit plans.
In a baby step for the Minneapolis long-term streetcar plan, the city was awarded $900,000 in federal money to help study alternative public transit on Nicollet and Central avenues.
The studied route starts at the new 46th Street transit station on Nicollet, heads north through downtown, then through North Minneapolis on Central Avenue all the way to the Columbia Heights transit station.
The $1.2 million study will assess cost, ridership and traffic flow to help city leaders decide whether the streetcar line is a good idea. It will also include studies of an enhanced bus line and a "non-build" scenario. The study, which includes public hearings, will take about 18 months from the time the city receives the funds.
This particular corridor was chosen because it crosses neighborhoods with very high population density, as well as downtown, said Anna Flintoft, transportation planner for the Minneapolis Department of Public Works.
"A lot of streetcars tend to be heavily about economic development," Flintoft said. "This is very much about improving the transit system for people who live and work in the city."
No one is proposing that the city abandon its current transit blend of buses and light rail. Instead, the plan envisions streetcars feeding into other transit developments like the new 46th Street transit station, where many Southwest Minneapolis buses check in.
This study will be the first baby step towards implementing the long-term streetcar plan that passed the Minneapolis City Council in March. Although the federal grant covers the bulk of the study's cost, the city council set aside the other $300,000 a couple years back to pay for a streetcar study.
At one time, Minneapolis had a thriving streetcar system that stretched to every corner of the city. The city closed down the last public streetcar line in 1954.
The current crop of streetcars, used in cities such as Portland, OR, look much like small light rail vehicles. The federal government has given out $408 million for streetcar projects around the country in the last 14 months.
"It's the start of something that we hopefully will be implementing citywide," city council member John Quincy said of the study. "Regardless of our current budget conditions, we have to keep thinking many years out into the future and not just be looking at the next step."