West Broadway LRT

Here’s an idea for how to get light-rail transit onto West Broadway while connecting the Northside with its river front.

West Broadway is one of Minneapolis’ most important streets but it’s physically divided from downtown and the rest of the city. Highways and railroad tracks make travel between downtown and North Minneapolis unattractive. Additionally, North Minneapolis has very weak connections to its riverfront.

The very railroad tracks that are contributing to this division could be the solution.

The Railroad tracks that run along what would be North 1st Street between Plymouth and Broadway are an under-appreciated link between Downtown and the Northside. In combination with North 10th Street, this route merges the Green line with West Broadway, while activating the underdeveloped river front (see map).


Metro Transit Headquarters is where the proposed route begins (see Image 1). After connecting with the Blue and Green lines, this proposed line curves around Heywood Garage to North 10th Street. On 10th, the trolley should make multiple stops to increase development on this far end of the North Loop. One block past Washington, across 2nd Street, the proposed tracks incline onto private property. Here, the tracks merge with Canadian Pacific rail lines.

image 1

For the stretch between Plymouth Ave and West Broadway (see Image 2), the line would help generate a dense, diverse community. Not only would this be a place of industry, but home to residential and commercials spaces as well. Running a transit line nearer the river, instead of on Washington Ave., creates a place in itself, instead of simply a through-way. The increased density will create a demand for parks and the Above the Falls Plan.

image 2

At Broadway, the tracks are elevated above the street. This is an important aspect. Both sets of tracks have to curve apart as West Broadway comes up to join them. This is good for biking down Broadway – the curving tracks don’t have to be crossed, hence less possibility of catching tires in tracks. The sidewalk might be elevated with the tracks rather than at the street level.

Along West Broadway, the tracks should run on the side, between the sidewalks and bike lanes (see image 3). Essentially, the transit line takes the parking lane while the other lanes are narrowed and reallocated. Driving space will consist of a single, narrow lane for through traffic and turn lanes when necessary. There also must be a wide, dedicated bike lane in each direction. Ultimately, the sidewalks need to take highest priority. For a truly sustainable city, walking is key. There should be frequent, heated transit shelters and water fountains.

image 3

The line should slowly curve up West Broadway, connecting Penn and terminating at Theo Wirth Pkwy. From Target Field to here is a mere 4 miles. This short route will stimulate development at the city’s core and Northside while connecting neighborhoods that have previously been divided. Suburban communities that wish to connect to the line can pay the City of Minneapolis.

The images above show a red line on the route I’m referring to. The map indicates the location of each perspective view with a circle. You can click on the images for greater detail.

Joe Polacek

About Joe Polacek

Minneapolis is the greatest city in the world. Saint Paul is a close second. For a strong, sustainable future we need dense, diverse and durable growth. @jplck