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.