The proposed METRO Blue Line extension will extend the existing METRO Blue Line (formerly Hiawatha Light Rail Line) by approximately 13 miles (20.92km) from the existing Target Field LRT station in downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park in suburban Hennepin County, US.

Also known as Bottineau LRT project, the extension will run through the cities of Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, and Crystal before reaching Brooklyn Park. It will connect to the Green LRT lines and Northstar commuter rail line near Target Field.

The $1.53bn project will include the construction of 11 new stations, 28 light rail vehicles, and four new park-and-ride facilities with approximately 1,700 parking spaces. Seven LRT bridges will be constructed, in addition to providing pedestrian and bicycle access to the stations.

The US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the extension project in January 2017 to enter the engineering phase. Early construction works on the project are expected to start in 2018, while major construction works are scheduled to begin in 2019. Expected to commence services from 2022, the LRT is expected to create 6,500 construction jobs.

The Metropolitan Council is the extension project developer, while a number of public and private partners are supporting the project by contributing through funding, oversight and expertise.

METRO Blue line extension project details

The proposed Bottineau LRT is expected to make transit improvements in the highly travelled north-west area between twin cities Minneapolis and Saint Paul. It will provide travellers with additional transportation choices and greater access to opportunities across the region.

The extension project is anticipated to extend the Blue Line services to the north-west, including Dayton, Rogers, and Hassan Township regions.

“Expected to commence services from 2022, the LRT is expected to create 6,500 construction jobs.”

The project alignment is almost at the same level with the freight rail and roadway rights-of-way. It will also connect to the bus rapid transit on the METRO Orange Line, METRO Red Line, and local and express bus routes.

Once commissioned, the line will offer a one-seat ride from the Target Northern Campus in Brooklyn Park to the Mall of America in Bloomington, passing through Minneapolis and at the MSP International Airport. From the Mall of America, passengers can transfer to the METRO Red Line Bus Rapid Transit to Apple Valley.

Passengers can also shift to the existing METRO Green Line to access the University of Minnesota, destinations along University Avenue or downtown St. Paul, and the Southwest Corridor on the proposed Green Line Extension.

A new operations and maintenance facility in Brooklyn Park is also proposed to be constructed as part of the extension project.

METRO Blue Line details

The METRO Blue Line currently offers light-rail service to 19 stations between downtown Minneapolis and Mall of America. It shares five downtown Minneapolis stations with the new METRO Green Line, with service to the University of Minnesota and St. Paul.

Minnesota’s first light rail transit line, the METRO Blue Line, started train operations between the Warehouse District and Fort Snelling in June 2004. It recorded the highest annual ridership in 2015 with a total of 10.6 million boardings.

Ridership on the METRO Blue Line Extension project

An estimated 25,500 daily linked trips will be made on the extension project with approximately 8,439,500 annual linked trips forecasted by 2035.

Stations

The proposed extension project will include the construction of 11 new stations, including five in Brooklyn Park, two in Golden Valley, two in Minneapolis, and one each in Crystal and Robbinsdale.

The five stations in Brooklyn Park will be at 63rd Avenue, Brooklyn Boulevard, 85th Avenue, 93rd Avenue, and Oak Grove Parkway.

The new stations in Golden Valley will be located at Plymouth Avenue/Theodore Wirth Park and Golden Valley Road, while the two new stations in Minneapolis will be at Van White Boulevard, and Penn Avenue.

The new station in Crystal will be located at Bass Lake Road, while that in Robbinsdale will be located at 42nd Avenue.

Financing

Of the $1.53bn cost, the FTA will provide $752.7m through the New Starts programme, with a Full Funding Grant Agreement in 2018.

Hennepin County is providing $526.8m in funds, while the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority is contributing $149.6m towards the project development.

Other financing sources include $85.6m from Counties Transit Improvement Board, $8.19m from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, $8.18m from Brooklyn Park, $4.12m from Hennepin County for associated road improvements, and $1m from the State of Minnesota.