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Hopkins Wants Up to $37M in Southwest LRT Improvements

The requests are part of more than $100 million in ‘betterments’ that communities along the line are requesting.

The Southwest Light Rail Transit bridge that will cross Bass Lake Spur tracks and wetlands west of the landfill.
The Southwest Light Rail Transit bridge that will cross Bass Lake Spur tracks and wetlands west of the landfill.

A civic plaza at Hopkins’ Downtown Station and trail improvements are just some of the $32 million to $36.5 million in amenities Hopkins officials are asking Southwest Light Rail planners to tack on to the project.

The requests are part of more than $100 million in “betterments” that cities along the line have requested. Those additions are not part of the $1.58 billion to $1.82 billion core cost of the project, but local officials argue that they will increase ridership and improve their communities.

The improvements could be paid for with unused contingency funds. At this stage of planning, the Federal Transit Administration requires projects to factor a contingency of 30 percent into their estimates—much larger than the 10 to 15 percent that is typical for city and county project, said Craig Lamothe, Southwest LRT’s deputy project director.

In addition to the requests for Hopkins improvements, the city is also jointly seeking two betterments with Minnetonka. Below is a list of the requests:

  • Shady Oak parking ramp ($3 million to $3.5 million): Change the 500-spot parking lot at the Shady Oak Station to a 250-spot parking lot and a 250-spot parking structure.
  • Civic plaza ($4.5 million to $5 million): Build a civic plaza at the Downtown Station with “lighting, landscaping, architectural features and amenities, enhanced bus shelters on Excelsior; bike facility with bathrooms and showers, water fountains, and bike maintenance space.”
  • Eighth Avenue pedestrian improvements ($.5 million to $1 million): Add a crosswalk and make other changes that make it easier and more enticing for pedestrians to cross Excelsior.
  • Fifth Avenue pedestrian improvements ($2 million to $2.5 million): Reconstruct the intersection, add a new signal, adjust the curb line and make other changes that make the intersection better for pedestrians.
  • Regional trail bridge ($5.5 million to $6.5 million): Build a bridge over Excelsior Boulevard for the regional trail. This will be a separate bridge, not connected to the light rail bridge that will cross Excelsior. (Requested jointly with Three Rivers Park District.)
  • Joint development project ($13.5 million to $14.5 million): A possible joint development project on the northwest corner of Blake and Excelsior.
  • Trail underpass at Blake Road ($3 million to $3.5 million): Allow trail users to cross beneath Blake Road. (Requested jointly with Three Rivers Park District.)

The betterments Hopkins is seeking with Minnetonka are:

  • Pedestrian and bike trail (cost to be determined): Add a pedestrian and bike trail alongside or under the Minnetonka-Hopkins bridge.
  • 17th Avenue extension ($9 million to $10 million): Extend 17th Avenue from the park-and-ride to K-Tel Drive.

Eric Anondson August 16, 2013 at 10:34 AM
I can shave 3.5 million off this. Don't do a trail underpass. Move the trail crossing over to 2nd NE, run the trail down the side of the excessively wide 2nd NE in a paint separate lane and zig back to the normal trail ROW at St. Louis. By narrowing 2nd NE it helps to slow speeds down to make it safe for pedestrians to find a safe crossing of 2nd NE, by moving it to a signal controlled crossing car drivers won't be confused when to stop for mounted cyclists because cyclists will be forced to cross at a controlled signal. Plus, when/if development happens at the Cold Storage block, continue the trail through the middle of the block straight out to the Creek will help break up the likely proposed mega cube development into smaller, more attractive chunks. By avoiding a bridge/tunnel, access to the trail from Blake will be easier, and avoids a narrow ramp, and avoids placing cyclists underneath an unsafe spot where objects can be dropped on them from above, as has sometimes happen through the Midtown Greenway.
Matthew Kilanowski August 16, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Here's another suggestion: Axe the Shady Oak parking ramp for now, and instead put it in as part of redeveloping the Johnson Building site. Then we can save the $1 million to try and "entice" people to cross Excelsior Boulevard through some scheme and give them a reason to cross the road: Their cars are there.
Matthew Kilanowski August 16, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Another thought: The current alignment through Hopkins was chosen because, originally, the decision hadn't been made to send the route west or south out of the Shady Oak station. Not to mirror the headache going on with the freight rail debate, but would there be any cost savings in rerouting the LRT down 2nd from Blake, under 169, then turn down Washington and straight down Main? The Downtown Hopkins station could actually be downtown, then the tracks could continue down Main and follow 17th to where the Shady Oak station is, which would just need to be changed to a north-south aligned platform. We could then: -Eliminate the need of a circulator service bringing people up and down 8th Ave (like the proposed Hopkins Streetcar) -Eliminate the 8th Ave pedestrian enticements -Eliminate the LRT bridge over the Excelsior/Jackson Ave intersection -Same with the trail bridge at that intersection -Eliminate the trail underpass at Blake (since the trail and the LRT would no longer be co-located at that crossing) -Eliminate the pedestrian improvements at 5th Ave I know, it's ludicrous to consider making a change to the LRT alignment, especially with the Met Council's adamant opposition to reconsidering the Greenway/Nicollet alignment. But still, I think it's an interesting concept to ponder...
Eric Anondson August 16, 2013 at 03:46 PM
That is an interesting option, pretty sure that was looked at and eliminated because of the effects on Mainstreet. Narrow as it already it, running an LRT down Mainstreet would likely end up removing all parking on Mainstreet to fit the rails. Not that the end result might not even end up liked in the end, taking out all that parking in front of the shops and bars would be dramatic. LRT and cars require separation, LRT isn't a street car and street cars and autos can share the same space. LRT would find room on 2nd NE, but without moving all on-street parking on Mainstreet it wouldn't fit there. If you've seen the LRT down University you've seen they put up fencing to prevent pedestrians from crossing University except at designated crossings. You'd have the same fencing running down the rails through Mainstreet to keep pedestrians off the rails except and the few designated crossings. Only a few of the north-south streets would have an allowed access for autos to cross Mainstreet. Maybe that would be positive in the end, but again, a tremendously traumatic change to the character of Mainstreet as we know it. So, probably politically unfeasable. :)
Matthew Kilanowski August 16, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Point. A subway, then? It could drop into a cut-and-cover trench as it rounds the bend onto Main, then resurface after passing under Excelsior. That eliminates the possible conflict with the fire department, too. You know, as long as I'm throwing out impossible scenarios anyway.
Eric Anondson August 16, 2013 at 04:12 PM
That would have been so cool. But if they decided they couldn't bore a tunnel under or cut-and-cover University Ave, they won't do it anywhere in this state.
Mike B. August 16, 2013 at 04:19 PM
What about the mass chaos that would result during years-long construction of this boondoggle? University Avenue and surrounding streets has been impossible to navigate over the past four years during construction. When they open that blasted thing, there will be accidents galore, what with pedestrians, drivers, and the trains fighting for passage through the area.
Matthew Kilanowski August 16, 2013 at 04:34 PM
What about the mass chaos that resulted from the years-long construction of the Interstate system through the area? Honestly, that's a poor argument against any project worth doing. All major transportation projects, by their very nature, cause disruption, but we deal with it for a couple years so that we can make use of it for decades to come.
Eric Anondson August 16, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Avoiding the mass chaos is a big reason they want to keep LRT as much as possible to the existing rail ROW.

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