Minneapolis Streetcar Line Passes Hurdle

Updated: 12/26/2013 9:14 PM KSTP.com By: Kate Renner

Streetcars could someday ride down Nicollet Mall and connect Lake Street with Northeast Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis City Council's Transportation and Public Works committee voted Tuesday morning to recommend streetcars as the next mode of transportation to go through downtown Minneapolis.

The first leg would run from Fifth Street Northeast, over the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, down Nicollet Avenue and end at the K-Mart on Lake Street.

Council members called the streetcar line a "superior experience," emphasizing its benefits of cutting down on downtown congestion and offering mass transit to the estimated 9,200 people who are expected to ride it daily.

The proposal has only passed one hurdle and there are a number of steps to go. While current Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is pushing the project, the next mayor elected in November will deal with construction and how the city will pay for it.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS found answers from five candidates on if they support or oppose the project. Three of the five support the streetcar line, including Don Samuels, Betsy Hodges and Mark Andrew. Cam Winton is opposed and Jackie Cherryhomes is undecided. She says it's not known if the city will have to kick in subsidies to run it, if it runs at a loss like other forms of transit.

"We don't need it and we can't afford it," said Winton.

Winton is clear on what he thinks about streetcars. He believes Minneapolis has a transit system that already works. He believes improvements like more bus enclosures and fare machines will work. "Gone will be the days of every single person paying when they get on the bus. Instead by paying before we get on the bus like light rail does, you can speed the boarding process up," he said.

The latest numbers show the streetcars would cost about $53 million per mile on a 3.4 mile line. The low estimate is $180 million, while the high estimate is $200 million.

"In contrast these enhancements I described, of heated bus enclosures and pay machines, max $2 million," Winton said.

But the streetcar proposal is not a done deal yet.

"We will be formally applying to the various funding departments, the federal government as well as the Metropolitan Council making our recommendations," Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Hofstede said.

Now, the proposal will go to the full City Council for approval.