Riverview Corridor: Finding a Good Balance Between Light Rail and Streetcar

Author’s note: I’m a member of the Riverview Corridor’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC). All of my opinions stated in this post are not intended to represent the opinions of the entire CAC.

The Riverview Corridor is a proposed streetcar route between the Mall of America and downtown St. Paul via Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Most of the route will have dedicated right-of-way like our light rail lines, but a certain length will have streetcars sharing the road with general traffic. In addition, Riverview will use single-unit vehicles instead of the multiple-unit trains that are typical of our light rail lines. Riverview will be the first time regular streetcar service operates in the Twin Cities since the original system shut down in 1954.

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Riverview Corridor, which is represented by residents who live near the route, began meeting on a bi-annual basis in the Spring of 2021. The CAC hears updates on the project and provides input, which is then forwarded to Riverview’s Policy Advisory Committee. More information on Riverview’s committees can be found here.

The more meetings we’ve had, the more hesitant I’ve been supporting streetcar for Riverview. It’s a route that certainly deserves an upgrade from Metro Transit’s existing bus service, but I’m concerned there will be more negatives than positives with streetcars. A lot of questions about what Riverview will look like have yet to be answered, and my views on Riverview heavily depend on what the answers will be.

Potential Issues with Streetcars

Mixed-Traffic and Single-Track Segments

The reliability and travel time of streetcars could be impacted by the mixed-traffic segments, and this heavily depends on their length and location. There’s also the increased risk of collisions with cars and pedestrians, which our light rail lines (especially the Green Line on University Avenue) have experienced despite their dedicated right-of-ways. The public will need a lot of education on how to share the road with streetcars and obey lights and signs that are intended to prevent collisions.

In addition to mixed-traffic segments, there might also be at least one single-track segment on Riverview. One likely location for single-track is the tunnel underneath Fort Snelling and across the Mississippi River on Highway 5. Besides the single-track option, the only other option is streetcars sharing the road with traffic on Highway 5. Although single-track on a high-frequency route should be avoided, the segment in the Fort Snelling area would only be approximately half a mile long, so high-frequency service should still be feasible.

Rendering of the western end of the single-track option at Fort Snelling. The eastern end of the single-track would be located across the Mississippi River. Source: Ramsey County.

A single-track segment would require switches at both ends that need routine maintenance to prevent a switch failure, which would severely impact operations on the entire route. However, a potential solution is having a gauntlet track, which doesn’t require switches. The original streetcar system of the Twin Cities used gauntlet tracks in several places where there wasn’t enough space or it wasn’t cost-effective for the usual double-track. Gauntlet tracks are still used in many places, and two examples I’ve seen are on the streetcar/tram systems of Amsterdam and Prague.

Due to the narrow street, this double-track tram line in Amsterdam becomes a gauntlet track for a short distance. Notice there are no switches, because the rails for each direction of travel are retained. Photo by Eric Ecklund.
A close-up view of the gauntlet track in Amsterdam. Unlike a typical track with one rail on each side, a gauntlet track has two rails on each side to allow trams in both directions to seamlessly pass through without the need for a switch to be in the correct alignment. Photo by Eric Ecklund.
An example of a gauntlet track in Prague, which is used by trams through this narrow space. A close-up view of the gauntlet track can be found here. Source: Google Street View.
A local and historical example of gauntlet track used by streetcars. This is at Bryant Avenue in South Minneapolis where streetcars crossed over Minnehaha Creek. Source: Minnesota Streetcar Museum.

Interlining with the Blue Line

Using the current alignment into/out of Mall of America by both the Blue Line and Riverview would create frequent and lengthy traffic backups due to trains crossing 24th Avenue at-grade. With that in mind, the preference is rerouting the tracks and relocating the train platforms. The relocated station would either be elevated or at-grade at the intersection of 82nd Street & 24th Avenue. This was originally the planned alignment for the Blue Line/Hiawatha Line in the late 1990s, but right before construction began in 2001 the alignment was changed to what it currently is with trains going into the Mall of America’s eastern parking ramp.

Rendering of the rerouted tracks with an elevated station at 82nd Street & 24th Avenue. Source: Ramsey County.

Direct access to the bus platforms and the mall would be retained. The relocated station would eliminate a couple of sharp curves where trains must travel slowly, as well as remove two grade crossings. With the elevated station option, the amount of time it takes to get between 30th Avenue Station (previously named 28th Avenue Station) and the bus platforms at Mall of America would be the same as it currently is, while the at-grade station would take longer than it currently is due to people having to cross 24th Avenue either at-grade (with a likely long wait for the traffic signal) or going up and down a pedestrian bridge. Having dealt with the slowness of getting to Mall of America Station and running or just missing my bus connection multiple times, I’m hoping the elevated station option is chosen.

Interlining with the Green Line

Unfortunately, it was determined that interlining Riverview with the Green Line in downtown St. Paul is infeasible because the current track and switch alignments wouldn’t be able to handle the extra train traffic. The existing light rail station at Union Depot could be expanded, but it would require significant physical changes including the permanent closure of 4th Street to car traffic.

Alignment options for Riverview being considered in downtown St. Paul. Source: Ramsey County.

Now there are two options being considered for downtown St. Paul: 5th/6th Streets or 7th Street. Both options would have streetcars turning onto Broadway and ending in the back of Union Depot, which would be adjacent to the bus platforms and Amtrak platforms. While the new alignments wouldn’t utilize existing light rail tracks and stations, the 5th/6th Street alignment would make transfers with many bus routes (including future BRT lines) quick and easy, and it could be an opportunity for dedicated transit lanes through downtown St. Paul.

Difficulty to Through-Route

With the new alignments being considered in downtown St. Paul, the preference is for Riverview streetcars to originate/terminate in the back of Union Depot, which would make it very difficult and unlikely to extend Riverview beyond downtown St. Paul. Despite building an extension of the Green Line and plans to extend the Blue Line beyond downtown Minneapolis, the design of the Green Line in downtown St. Paul makes it very difficult to build an extension. I believe it would be a repeated mistake to do the same with Riverview. Not everyone’s origin/destination is in downtown.

The proposed eastern terminus for Riverview streetcars. On the right are the bus stops for Union Depot, and on the left in the background are platforms for Amtrak. Source: Google Street View.

Different Rolling Stock

Existing and future light rail lines in the Twin Cities will use the Siemens S70, but for Riverview, the streetcar variant of the Siemens S70 or an entirely different vehicle might be ordered. From a maintenance and operations perspective it would be optimal to have a common fleet for all of our light rail and streetcar routes. However, I’ll note that a new maintenance facility will need to be built for Riverview no matter what rolling stock it uses.

A Siemens S70 at Robert Street Station in St. Paul. Photo by Tony Webster.
The streetcar variant of the Siemens S70 in Atlanta. Photo by Cqholt.

Benefits of Streetcars

What may come to mind when thinking of streetcars are either old streetcars now used for heritage and tourist purposes (e.g. Como-Harriet Line), or modern streetcars that some American cities have built with the intent of making areas more attractive to development while not necessarily improving transit (e.g. Detroit’s Q-Line). Riverview definitely wouldn’t be the former, and I hope it won’t be the latter in terms of lacking upgrades in transit service. I envision Riverview as similar to tram systems in European cities like Amsterdam, where this mode of transit is just as important as the rest of the transit system.

A streetcar/tram navigating through the narrow and bustling streets of Amsterdam, which has one of the largest tram networks in Europe. Photo by Eric Ecklund.

There are several ways streetcars on Riverview would be an upgrade over the existing bus service provided by Metro Transit’s Route 54. While not the full dedicated right-of-way like light rail has, streetcars on Riverview would still have dedicated right-of-way for the majority of the route, whereas Route 54 has virtually no dedicated right-of-way. With streetcars utilizing the existing Blue Line infrastructure and stations between Fort Snelling and Bloomington, Riverview will be able to serve both terminals at MSP Airport (Route 54 only serves Terminal 1). Having taken transit to/from many airports in the US and Europe, trains are almost always easier to use for air travelers, especially those with luggage. Riverview will also have more capacity than Route 54; a streetcar can hold at least twice as many people as a 60-foot articulated bus, and there’s more room for mobility devices, strollers and bikes. There’s also the ease of getting on/off streetcars with level-boarding platforms, which is difficult to replicate with buses.

Recommendations

A map showing the recommended route and station locations for Riverview can be looked at here.

Mixed-Traffic and Single-Track Segments

Mixed-traffic operations should be limited to less than 10% (approximately 1.25 miles) of Riverview’s route. In addition, the mixed-traffic segments should be able to be easily converted to dedicated right-of-way.

Where streetcars operate on the road, the tracks should be placed in the center of the road instead of on the sides of the road. Center-running reduces the chances of slowdowns caused by turning traffic, parked/stalled cars (like this example) and delivery vehicles.

Traffic signals are another important factor to consider for making Riverview have a reasonable travel time and good reliability. Optimally every signalized intersection would have preemption (like the Blue Line along Hiawatha Avenue) for Riverview streetcars, but at the very least every signalized intersection should give priority to Riverview streetcars. While signal priority doesn’t guarantee streetcars wouldn’t have to wait for a signal, it improves the chances.

Riverview should use gauntlet track through the Fort Snelling Tunnel and across the Mississippi River. While technically single-track, this is a better option than sharing the right-of-way with traffic on Highway 5, and gauntlet track eliminates the need for track switches. Optimally this would be the only segment on Riverview that requires gauntlet track or single-track, but a couple of other segments would be acceptable as long as each segment is less than half a mile.

Rolling Stock

Since the rolling stock for Riverview will require a new maintenance facility and the only connection with the light rail system would be at Fort Snelling, there has been a preference towards a specialized rolling stock for Riverview. If this is decided, then the rolling stock should have as close as possible to the same capacity as a 2-car Siemens S70 train (approximately 462 people). An example from Spanish train manufacturer CAF is the Urbos 100, which has a maximum capacity of 397 people while being 5 feet shorter in length than a 2-car Siemens S70 train. The Urbos 100 is entirely low-floor, whereas the Siemens S70 is 70% low-floor, so the Urbos 100 has more room for people with disabilities, mobility devices, strollers and bikes.

The 9-module Urbos 100, used in Budapest, is one of the longest trams in the world. Photo by Albert Lugosi.

Ford Spur

The Ford Spur should be used by Riverview streetcars between West 7th & Alton and West 7th & Toronto (2.8 miles in distance). The dedicated right-of-way is there, and there are fewer crossings with vehicles and pedestrians (17 grade crossings on the Ford Spur vs 28 intersections on West 7th). Four stations (Homer Street, Montreal Avenue, Otto Avenue and Randolph Avenue) would be away from West 7th, but are within an acceptable distance.

Homer Street: Between West 7th and Ford Spur is 830 feet

Montreal Avenue: Between West 7th and Ford Spur is 0.255 miles

Otto Avenue: Between West 7th and Ford Spur is 0.26 miles

Randolph Avenue: Between West 7th and Ford Spur is 500 feet

Due to the indirect route between West 7th and a hypothetical station on the Ford Spur for Montreal Avenue (which would likely be above I-35E as part of a freeway cap), Riverview could instead continue on West 7th between Alton and Montreal before switching to the Ford Spur. This would allow a station at West 7th & Montreal while still taking advantage of the Ford Spur’s dedicated right-of-way between Montreal Avenue and Toronto Avenue (1.75 miles in distance).

Using the Ford Spur would also reduce the amount of track embedded in concrete. Embedded track is more expensive to maintain than track on rock ballast due to road salt and other debris, which has been an issue on our light rail lines.

Colocation of Riverview and a trail is possible along the Ford Spur. While there are several pinch-points where the right-of-way is only around 50-feet wide, two tracks for streetcars and a trail with separate lanes for bikers and walkers can be accommodated.

Graphic showing colocation of a streetcar and a trail on the Ford Spur. Source: City of St. Paul.
Pinch points on the Ford Spur. Riverview would only use the Ford Spur right-of-way between West 7th & Alton (near St. Paul Avenue) and West 7th & Toronto (near Randolph Avenue). Source: City of St. Paul.

Currently the Ford Spur is still owned by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). However, the Ford Spur’s connection to the national railway network has been removed, so it’s a big step towards CP abandoning and selling the right-of-way. If/when that happens, Ramsey County and St. Paul should swiftly make an offer to CP in order to protect this right-of-way for trail and/or transit use. A study of the Ford Spur’s future use was already done in 2018.

Through-Running

In downtown St. Paul, Riverview needs to be aligned to easily allow an extension. Our downtowns are great as transit hubs, but this doesn’t mean every route, especially trunk routes like Riverview, should end in downtown and require a transfer no matter where people are going.

Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis is where the Blue Line/Hiawatha Line originally ended, but planners knew eventually it needed to be extended beyond downtown. This alignment easily allows for the Blue Line and Green Line to be extended north and west respectively. Source: Google Street View.

While through-running would likely mean Riverview wouldn’t directly serve Union Depot, an alignment on 5th/6th Streets could have a station within two blocks of Union Depot.

More Than Just a Streetcar

The reasons to support Riverview should be more than just it being a streetcar line; it’s an opportunity for high-capacity and high-frequency transit with dedicated right-of-way for most of the route, and serving several important destinations including Mall of America, Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and downtown St. Paul. In addition, it’s an opportunity to better connect the west metro and east metro, especially if it’s designed to easily allow an extension beyond downtown St. Paul.

I partly agree with criticisms regarding choosing streetcar over light rail for Riverview, mainly the lack of fully dedicated right-of-way, but if Riverview at least closely follows the recommendations I gave then I believe it would be on par with the many successful tram systems in European cities. Riverview could also be a model for other American cities that want to establish, expand or improve streetcar routes.

About Eric Ecklund

Eric has lived in Bloomington his whole life (besides 4 months studying in Oslo, Norway). With a Bachelors in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, his future career is in transportation planning and he is heavily invested in Twin Cities transit from trying different bus routes to continuously examining how to improve the transit network in the Twin Cities.

15 thoughts on “Riverview Corridor: Finding a Good Balance Between Light Rail and Streetcar

  1. Luke Birtzer

    The walkshed on the Ford Spur routing between Alton and 35E is arguably better than 7th street when you consider future redevelopment. In that area, 7th is flush against the bluff. And warehouses have a history of turning into trendy neighborhoods…

    Also, if Riverview went down 5th/6th and terminated at Union Depot, it could still be extended east..the track to Union Depot would just be a spur… maybe some trains could shortline. Would that even be worth it?

    1. Matt Mason

      Great article- I hope this can be built to accommodate both the greatest speed and maximize high-density mixed-use redevelopment along the corridor. One major question/issues: why not Kellogg as the route through downtown? It could be a direct route from W 7th St, stopping at 7th/Kellogg, Kellogg/ St. Peter or Wabasha (adjacent to the Rivers Edge development), and directly service Union Depot for Green Line transfers at the Amtrak/bus area of Union Depot. This would also open up a direct route across to the east to serve Metro State, the E. 7th St corridor, and Arcade (though Payne Ave would not have a very direct connection in this scenario). As an alternative, the streetcar could be extended to follow the Gold Line if ridership justifies a conversion to rail.

  2. James A Schoettler

    Eric, your thoughtful articles are always appreciated. Here are some more thoughts for you to consider; eager to hear your response:
    1. The Riverview Corridor is one of the three most important LRT routes in the Metropolitan Area. This is because it connects the eastern third of the Metropolitan Area with the airport and beyond. A metropolitan perspective is needed here. The route needs speed, capacity and scalability. Streetcar fails on all three; nothing could be so short-sighted and wasteful. Streetcar is not an opportunity for high capacity and high frequency transit.
    2. If you want your “streetcar” to look like Europe, you are going to have to remove most of the auto and truck traffic from West 7th and downtown. Ain’t going to happen.
    3. You are correct that the Riverview portion should be considered in connection with an eastern extension, well into Washington County. But what about the western side? LRT is a project for generations; the current political antipathy will change. A logical extension of Riverview is west along I494, plus a North-South route on Cedar. Both you and Ramsey have Riverview deadheading at the MOA; it can’t go any farther. Better to run it above Lindau Lane, with an elevated station on Lindau, smack in the middle, near the main entrance to the MOA and at the gateway to the eventual development north of Lindau.
    4. A Fort Snelling crossing is highly problematic. And any proposals to narrow or reduce the number of lanes through the tunnel are unacceptable. It’s already dangerous. Did you watch it recently when they closed a lane for bridge inspection? Imagine this in wintertime. Fortunately, there is a much better crossing from the end of the CP-Spur at Highland Bridge, directly across the river and over the Hiawatha & 54th St. intersection, up to the Blue Line just above the Veterans Hospital station. An LRT station at Highland Bridge would be extremely important to reducing traffic from that development and very beneficial to residents of Highland Park and it would add substantial ridership (much needed) without any loss from the West 7th area. Keep in mind all the major modifications you need between Davern St. and the Blue Line connection just to shoehorn the streetcar through the tunnel. A new river crossing from Highland Bridge is far better and would likely cost less.
    5. Downtown St Paul should have LRT, but the streets are too narrow and the blocks too short. The solution is a short tunnel from a station at the Xcel, just below Kellogg Ave and a couple underground stations at Landmark and Central Station, then out below Minnesota Street and over to the Depot; it is easily extended east from that point.
    6. It is highly desirable to have a standard rail vehicle for the entire rail system. It saves money up front and every day thereafter, because you have the same repair facility, the same tooling, the same spare parts, the same training, the same cab and you order everything in quantity. A “streetcar” only makes sense in places like the Midtown Greenway and you could use a single LRT vehicle. Complex is bad; unnecessarily complex is real bad.
    7. A center running streetcar might make sense for the streetcar, but it is guaranteed to kill more people; you know that up front; why would you do that? Watch this YouTube video from Canberra, Australia:

    1. Eric Ecklund Post author

      We’ll just have to agree to disagree on what is considered high-frequency and high-capacity transit. There are examples where streetcars fail at this, but there are also examples where streetcars succeed.
      I’ve been to Dublin, Ghent, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Munich, Geneva, Vienna, Budapest, Helsinki, Prague, Milan, and Krakow. All of those cities have tram systems that share the road with cars for a certain distance. They may not be as car-dependent as American cities, but from experience I can tell you there’s still plenty of car traffic.
      While I agree a Mall of America terminus should be designed to easily allow a future western extension, I’m not sure any of the decision makers will consider that. It would require enough people voicing support to get the attention of decision makers.
      At this point I don’t think routing through the Ford Site will be reconsidered. From past CAC meetings I know the speed limit would be reduced on the Highway 5 Bridge with the addition of Riverview. Also keep in mind narrower lanes doesn’t equal more dangerous. In fact wider lanes can be more dangerous because that encourages people to drive above the speed limit.
      The streets of downtown St. Paul are definitely not too narrow for streetcars. We fit the Green Line in there, we can do the same for Riverview.
      As mentioned in this post, Riverview will require a new maintenance facility no matter what vehicles it uses. When vehicles were being ordered for the Green Line the original vehicles purchased for the Blue Line/Hiawatha Line were no longer being produced, so a new vehicle type had to be ordered. The same may happen when the time comes to order vehicles for Riverview, or even if Siemens is still producing the S70 it might be significantly changed and require different parts and maintenance procedures from the current generation S70.
      Do you have data to show that center-running is more dangerous than side-running? Most of the accidents and close-calls in the video you shared look like they could only be prevented by people using common sense and respecting the tracks.

    2. Steve Gjerdingen

      In regards to the comment earlier about tunneling underneath downtown St. Paul for a short stretch near the Xcel, Good Luck! Downtown St. Paul already has a myriad of utility tunnels right underneath the surface of the city. There are about 7 layers worth of tunnels and infrastructure already there, so navigating that (if even physically possible) would skyrocket the cost of the project.

      1. James A Schoettler

        Steve, as you point out there are lots of tunnels under Downtown St Paul, but no one has complained about the cost for these tunnels and some are pretty big. That’s because it is not that difficult to tunnel through our St Peter sandstone which underlies most of the downtown. A short tunnel under the downtown would save an enormous amount of money that would otherwise be needed to tear up all the city streets and utilities and rebuild everything, not to mention the impact of construction on the downtown and the years and years of impact on downtown traffic and such as you currently see along the Green Line.

  3. Alex Bauman

    “interlining Riverview with the Green Line in downtown St. Paul is infeasible because the current track and switch alignments wouldn’t be able to handle the extra train traffic.” Can you elaborate on this? I thought the Green Line’s max frequency was 5x hour? There should be no reason why a transit guideway shouldn’t be able handle even 10 trains per hour.

    “Using the current alignment into/out of Mall of America by both the Blue Line and Riverview would create frequent and lengthy traffic backups due to trains crossing 24th Avenue at-grade.” If the purpose of relocating the transit facilities is to reduce vehicular congestion then it should be paid for by highway funding. The purpose of transit funding is not to improve vehicular mobility.

    I’m not necessarily opposed to mixed traffic light rail in limited circumstances but it sounds like Riverview is ending up with the sort of “throw money at it” design solutions to political problems that seem to be the main reason transit capital projects are so expensive in the US.

    1. Eric Ecklund Post author

      I emailed Kevin Roggenbuck (Senior Transportation Planner with Ramsey County) about why Riverview couldn’t easily be interlined with the Green Line, considering the Blue and Green Lines interline in downtown Minneapolis just fine. Here’s what he said:
      “There are two main differences between interlining in Saint Paul at Cedar Avenue vs. Blue and Green Lines interlining in Minneapolis. One is the location of the track switches. In Saint Paul, the switches would be in the street and subject to damage from vehicle traffic. In Minneapolis, the switches are in their own right-of-way and easier to maintain. The other difference is the grade on 5th and 6th Streets just west of Cedar. Metro Transit Operations was concerned about streetcars safely descending the hill and climbing the hill between Wabasha and Cedar in mixed traffic. We have not been able to come up with a better way to interline with Green Line and continue to Union Depot, so we have begun to look at other routes into downtown.”

      Keep in mind the Mall of America realignment is more than just reducing car congestion, which I mentioned in this post. With that said I would absolutely support highway funding being used for transit projects, but I’m guessing that’s easier said than done, or the result would be highway-oriented transit like the not-so-useful Red Line between Mall of America and Apple Valley.

      I think Southwest LRT is more guilty of throwing money at political problems than Riverview will be, specifically the tunnel in Kenilworth. Not to beat a dead horse over the Kenilworth route issue, but I find it odd that single-track through the pinch-point in Kenilworth was deemed infeasible, yet single-track for Riverview through the Fort Snelling Tunnel and across the river is being considered. We’ll never know for sure, but I get the feeling if there were rich political donors living next to the Fort Snelling Tunnel and the Highway 5 Bridge then planners would’ve chosen the alignment going up to 46th Street, through the Ford Site, and down to West 7th on the Ford Spur.

      1. Alex Bauman

        I really appreciate your follow-up and gathering more information, Eric! It’s clear that you write here in the spirit of advancing information and conversation that is all too rare on the internet unfortunately.

        I can’t say I fully understand Kevin Roggenbuck’s explanation, however. It looks to me like the switch on 5th between Hennepin and Nicollet in Minneapolis is similarly separated from vehicle traffic to the switch on 4th between Jackson and Sibley in St Paul. Am I missing something? If he is instead talking about a hypothetical switch from a streetcar running on 7th or 5th/6th and the existing light rail tracks, it’s hard to understand why there couldn’t be ROW dedicated for just the half block or so that the switch is on, especially if the line turns from 7th onto Cedar, given the vacant lot at 7th & Cedar.

        The grade issue on 5th/6th makes more sense as a reason to not use those streets, but it still seems excessive to build a mile or so of additional (double) track rather than explore alternatives such as 7th, 4th, or Kellogg that could be used to access the existing light rail track. It also sounds like (based on your Union Depot expansion comment and the hypothetical switch issues) St Paul is averse to reducing lanes for cars in their downtown, which makes me think that maybe they aren’t ready for more high-capacity transit (which doesn’t work without its own lanes in congestion points).

        Regarding the MoA, I agree that the existing alignment is frustratingly slow, but it also seems to be working. Part of the problem with transit construction is this country is that improvements are typically bundled into megaprojects, which must then be decided on as a package (and the resulting large price tag means that the decision is often against). My understanding is that the ridership projections for Riverview are lower than is ideal for a project of this size, so it seems prudent to reduce the scope of the project where possible and make improvements later as a separate project (although my understanding is that US transit financing can make this difficult).

        I agree with your comments on Southwest and was thinking of that (along with others in my initial comment). Southwest is another project that may have been better split into two projects as the section from Minneapolis to Hopkins could likely have been justified on its own and been more digestible in terms of budget (although obviously the trouble spots have been in the Minneapolis segments).

  4. RT

    expanding the tunnel under Fort Snelling/The Chapel area would damage an already de-stabilized bluff, a risk to the state’s premier historic site is not worth a route for a light rail/streetcar that can be placed along another route

    1. Eric Ecklund Post author

      Both options for Riverview through the tunnel (single-track or double-track in mixed-traffic) won’t require widening the tunnel.

  5. Ed SteinhauerEd Steinhauer

    I’m interested in what happens on 7th Street; and what the prospect of streetcars might be. But after expressing your misgivings on Streetcars in Paragraph 3, I had a hard time coming deep into the weeds with you on the “how’s” of the proposal. Heck, I can ‘t safely ride my bike down West 7th. And I know a little bit about the buzz saw of suspicion and bad feelings by businesses and residents about projects exactly like this. Who exactly is with you on this proposal, if you’re not entirely along yourself? Help me get across Montreal Ave. on a bike before inundating me with track configurations and the prospects of a tunnel crossing the bridge. “The first thing is to make the first thing the first thing,” so they say. I would like to know first, what is the appetite of this city for expanded transit in the Riverview Corridor?

  6. James Patrick Buchanan

    The only thing in this plan that I would change is putting the rerouted tracks in an underground station at 82nd Street & 24th Avenue. To accommodate future growth in the numbers of transit users, I can envision a six track terminal, three tracks for light rail and three tracks for the streetcar. Also, an underground station would keep passengers safer from severe storms, more than an elevated station would.

  7. Scott

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis of the Riverview Corridor Streetcar. I’ve never been a big fan of this streetcar concept because of the lack of capacity, running it in mixed-traffic and the fact that the service will be slower than the current bus. However, you’ve moved me a bit towards more support knowing that larger streetcar vehicles may be available. Do you have any more thoughts about the speed of the proposed route that might sway me on that issue? Also, has there been any conversation about the potential cost of the streetcar construction? It seems that a full scale LRT would make more sense over the long-term if the cost of track and stations would be similar.

    1. Eric Ecklund Post author

      From a presentation with the CAC the planned travel time for Riverview between Mall of America and St. Paul Union Depot will be 43-44 minutes, so only 4 minutes slower than the current Route 54 bus. There’s also the fact that Route 54 runs in mixed-traffic for virtually the entire route, so it can only go as fast as the traffic it’s in. Riverview on the other hand will have dedicated right-of-way for most of the route, so there will be a lot less places where streetcars could get backed up in traffic. Riverview will also have a big advantage using the airport tunnel whereas Route 54 has to use the airport access ramps from Highway 5, which only have two lanes in each direction. Plus with Riverview serving Terminal 2 it’ll be a lot easier for people in the east metro to access that part of the airport.

      Along with traffic there’s road construction in the summer and blizzards in the winter. Bus stop closures and detours because of construction don’t give people confidence that they can rely on the bus, and whenever Metro Transit posts about blizzard delays the light rail lines are usually either still on time or very little delay while much of the bus network has moderate to severe delays.

      I’m hoping where streetcars operate in traffic it would be easy and inexpensive to convert it to dedicated right-of-way at a later time, so then while Riverview wouldn’t be full-scale LRT when it opens it could become so eventually.

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