Last reviewed July 2009
Resources on Minnesota Issues
Light Rail & Commuter Transit
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference
Library on a topic of interest to Minnesota legislators. It is designed
to provide an introduction to the topic, directing the user to a variety
of sources, and is not intended to be exhaustive.
Rail mass transit has been an issue in Minnesota for well over 25
years. In the 1970s, heavy rail and "downtown people movers" were studied
as transit options for the Twin Cities. By the early 1980s, light rail
transit was beginning to be seen as a possible alternative to other
methods of mass transit. On January 17, 2001, ground was broken for light rail
transit along the Hiawatha Avenue corridor, eventually connecting downtown Minneapolis,
the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington.
The line was completed in the fall of 2004 and is the first light
rail transit line in Minnesota. The Northstar Corridor, a commuter transit line running 40 miles from the Big Lake area to downtown Minneapolis along Highway 10, is scheduled to be operational in late 2009. The Central Corridor, running from Minneapolis to St. Paul (see map), is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
LIGHT RAIL AND COMMUTER TRANSIT CHRONOLOGY:
1975: Minnesota Legislature prohibits the Metropolitan Transit
Commission from using transit tax levies for any preliminary work on
an automated fixed guideway system. (Laws of Minnesota 1975,
chapter 13, section 71(d))
1980: Minnesota Legislature directs the Metropolitan Council
to conduct a feasibility study of light rail transit in the metropolitan
area. (Laws of Minnesota 1980, chapter 607, article 13, section 3)
1984: Minnesota Legislature creates Regional Transit Board.
(Laws of Minnesota 1984, chapter 654, article 3, section 116)
1985: Minnesota Legislature prohibits any expenditure of public
funds on light rail transit. (Laws of Minnesota 1Sp 1985, chapter
10, section 105)
1987: Minnesota Legislature removes the 1985 prohibition by
giving any regional rail authority the ability to study, plan, or design
a light rail transit system. (Laws of Minnesota 1987, chapter 405,
section 4) In addition, the Metropolitan Council is allowed to cooperate
with the regional rail authorities in light rail transit planning. (Laws
of Minnesota 1987, chapter 405, section 3)
1988: Minnesota Legislature appropriates $4.17 million (if
matched with dollar for dollar amounts from other funding sources) for
regional railroad authorities to plan, design and construct light rail
transit facilities. (Laws of Minnesota 1988, chapter 684, article
2, section 2)
1989: Minnesota Legislature requires the Regional Transit Board
to adopt a regional light rail plan. (Laws of Minnesota 1989,
chapter 339, section 12)
Minnesota Legislature creates the Joint Light Rail Transit Advisory
Committee to assist the Regional Transit Board in LRT planning. (Laws of Minnesota 1989,
chapter 339, section 13)
1991: Minnesota Legislature creates the Light Rail Transit
Joint Powers Board. (Laws of Minnesota 1991, chapter 298, article
7, section 8)
1993: Minnesota Legislature establishes the Corridor Management
Committee (Laws of Minnesota 1993, chapter 353, section 12)
1994: Minnesota Legislature abolishes the Regional Transit
Board. All duties and responsibilities are transferred to the Metropolitan
of Minnesota 1994, chapter 628, article 2, section 4)
1997: Minnesota Legislature authorizes the study of the potential
of using freight rail corridors in the metropolitan area for commuter
rail service. (Laws
of Minnesota 1997, chapter 159, article 2, section 51)
1998: Minnesota Legislature appropriates $40 million for a
light rail transit system for the Hiawatha Corridor. Another $6.5 million
is appropriated for LRT study, design and engineering work of other
of Minnesota 1998, chapter 404, section 17) On May 22, 1998, Congress
passes a transportation bill which allots $120 million for the Hiawatha
Corridor light rail transit project. Congress also authorizes an additional
$6 million for rail transit work on the North Star Corridor (Minneapolis
to St. Cloud through Anoka).
1999: Minnesota Legislature appropriates $60 million for construction
of the Hiawatha Corridor LRT line. (Laws
of Minnesota 1999, chapter 240, article 1, section 9, subdivision 5) This funding
makes Minnesota eligible to receive matching federal funds for the project.
2000: Laws of Minnesota 2000,
chapter 479, article 1, section 24, subdivision 4 gives the Metropolitan Council
the right to sell or lease naming rights to light rail transit stations and to apply
revenues from sales or leases to light rail transit operating costs.
June 2000 - September 2000: Design-build contractor and vehicle manufacturer selection process for Hiawatha Corridor.
October 1, 2000: Hiawatha Corridor construction begins.
October 2002: First Hiawatha Corridor vehicle delivered.
2004: Hiawatha Corridor LRT service begins Saturday, June 26, 2004.
2005: Minnesota Legislature approves $37.5 million for the Northstar Corridor in the 2005 bonding bill. (Laws of Minnesota 2005,
chapter 20, article 1) In June of 2005, the United States Congress approves $80 million for the Northstar Corridor in the federal transportation bill.
2006: Minnesota Legislature approves $60 million for the Northstar Corridor in the 2006 capital improvement bonding bill. (Laws of Minnesota 2006,
chapter 258, section 16, subdivision 4)
2006: The Metropolitan Council begins planning for a Central Corridor Light Rail transit line. This rail line will connect downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul along University Avenue.
December 11, 2007: The Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for Northstar Commuter Rail is signed by state and federal officials. This agreement allots $156.8 million in federal funds and $97.5 million in state funds to the project.
April 7, 2008: Governor Pawlenty vetoes the $70 million allotted for the Central Corridor project in the 2008 bonding bill. (Laws of Minnesota 2008,
chapter 179, section 17, subd. 5) However, in May 2008, the $70 million is restored in a supplementary bonding package. (Laws of Minnesota 2008,
chapter 365, section 4)
Summer 2009: Five year anniversary of the Hiawatha Line. Ridership is 20 percent ahead of what ridership was expected to be in 2020. A plan to buy more train cars to accommodate increased ridership requires the expansion of 10 LRT stations.
August 18, 2009 The Federal Transit Administration issues the Central Corridor LRT Record of Decision clearing the way for the project to proceed.
HIAWATHA AVENUE CORRIDOR FUNDING:
From the Metropolitan Council's Overview of the Hiawatha Light Rail Line.
- Cost: $675.4 million (in 2002 dollars).
- Federal........................................................................$334.3 million
- State of Minnesota........................................................$100.0 million
- Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority..........................$87.0 million
- Metropolitan Airports Commission....................................$84.2 million
- Federal Grant for Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality.........$49.8 million
- MnDOT..........................................................................$20.1 million
PROPOSED AND EXISTING CORRIDORS:
Various rail corridors have been proposed throughout the years. The
following is a list of proposed and existing corridors and, where appropriate, Library catalog searches for relevant corridor studies. This list is not comprehensive and the Library catalog should be checked for additional reports.
SIGNIFICANT BOOKS AND REPORTS:
(See also PROPOSED CORRIDORS for additional reports.)
Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project: Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Saint Paul: Metropolitan Council, 2008. (TD194.56.M6 C466 2008)
Commuter Rail System Plan: Moving Minnesota, Part of the Moving
Minnesota Strategy. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Transportation,
2000. (HE2781.T9T952 2000)
Diers, John W. Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. (TF725.M6 D54 2007)
Economic Development Potential Around Proposed Central Corridor
LRT Stations. St. Paul: Metropolitan Council, 1995. (HE4491.M62
Hiawatha Corridor Light Rail Fact Book. Roseville, MN: Minnesota Department
of Transportation, Metropolitan Division, Office of Rail Transit; St. Paul: Metropolitan
Council, 2000. (HE4491.T92 H53 2000)
Hiawatha Light Rail Corridor Financial Report to the Minnesota Legislature.
St. Paul: Metropolitan Council, 2000. (HE4491.T92 H54 2000)
(Required by Laws of Minnesota 1999, chapter 240, article 1, section 9)
Light Rail Transit: The Regional Transit Board's Proposal to the 1991 Minnesota
Legislature. Prepared by Transit Task Force, Community Information Committee.
Minneapolis: Citizens League, 1991. (HE4491.T92 L54 1991)
Light Rail Transit Feasibility in the Hiawatha Avenue Corridor. Prepared by
Bather-Ringrose-Wolsfeld-Jarvis-Gardner, Inc. St. Paul: Metropolitan
Council, 1981. (HE4491.T95 L53x) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 1980, chapter 607, article 13, section 3)
Light Rail Transit Feasibility Study: Final Report. Prepared by Sanders and
Thomas, Inc. in association with Midwest Research Institute, COMSIS Corporation.
St. Paul: Metropolitan Council, 1981. (HE4491.T95 L54x)
(Required by Laws of Minnesota 1980, chapter 607, article 13, section 3) (Report includes a technical supplement and a summary.)
Major Constituency Positions on Light Rail Transit and Tunnel Alignment
Hub in Downtown Minneapolis: Testimony Prepared for Minnesota Governor
Arne Carlson. 1995. (HE4491.M62 M35 1995)
Schmidt, Andrew J. Minnesota Statewide Historic Railroads Study Project Report - Final. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, 2007. (HE2771.M6 S352 2007)
Schmidt, Andrew J. Railroads in Minnesota, 1862-1956. [Minnesota : s.n., 2007?]. (HE2771.M6 S35 2007)
Shaping Our Future: The Facts About Light Rail Transit. St.
Paul: Regional Transit Board, 1991. (HE4491.T92 S53 1991)
Twin Cities Metropolitan Commuter Rail Study: Phase I Summary
Report. Seattle: Parsons Brinckerhoff, 1998. (HE2781.T9 T95 1998)
(Required by Laws
of Minnesota 1997, chapter 159, article 2, section 51) (Report includes an Executive Summary, Appendix A: Rail
Corridor Assessment Report, Appendix B: Environmental and Land Use Summary
Report, and Appendix C: Institutional Issues Summary Report.)
"At Long Last...Light-Rail Transit." Council Directions, May/June 1998, p.1 (2).
(Metropolitan Council publication)
Blake, Laurie. "Crunch Time for Light Rail." Star Tribune,
May 2, 1999.
Blake, Laurie. "Improve Transportation? Most Say Go For It."
Star Tribune, March 12, 2000. (Minnesota Poll)
Blake, Laurie. "Light Rail's New Price Tag: $444 Million." Star
Tribune, August 4, 1998.
Blake, Laurie. "Public Still Favors State Aid for Light Rail."
Star Tribune, May 2, 1999. (Minnesota Poll)
"Breaking Ground: The Hiawatha Line; Here's a Look at Minnesota's Plan for Light Rail." Star Tribune, January 17, 2001.
Dornfield, Steven. "LRT: Back to the Future?" (Five Part Series) St.
Paul Pioneer Press, February 26-March 3, 1995.
"Let the Trains Begin." (A Star Tribune Rider's Guide) Star Tribune, June 23, 2004. (Vertical File M50.15A)
McClure, Jane. "Central Corridor Process and the Players". Twin Cities Daily Planet, submitted: March 27, 2007 - 7:47pm.
Stassen-Berger, Rachel E. "Light Rail Nears Crucial Crossing." (Includes "Roundup of Light-Rail Lawsuits".)
St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 2, 2001.
Stassen-Berger, Rachel E. "Twin Cities Light Rail Feels Closer to Reality."
(Includes timeline.) St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 25, 1998.
Wray, Lyle. "Make Hiawatha Corridor Pathbreaking Example of Efficient,
Attractive Transit." Minnesota Journal, January 20, 1998, p.1
ADDITIONAL LIBRARY RESOURCES:
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the
M50.15A (Metropolitan Transit - Light Rail Transit)
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these
Library catalog searches:
Light Rail (Minnesota);
GROUPS INVOLVED WITH LIGHT RAIL & COMMUTER TRANSIT: