"This connection will create a 63-mile passenger rail network for the Twin Cities, 11 miles for Central, 12 miles for Hiawatha and 40 miles for Northstar. The network will increase to 78 miles when the 15-mile Southwest LRT line begins service in 2018, four years after Central Corridor," said Mark Fuhrmann, the local program director for New Starts rail projects.
Central Corridor LRT trains from St. Paul will operate for a mile in downtown Minneapolis from a point near the Metrodome, serving five stations over existing Hiawatha tracks to Target Field Station. Passengers will be able to board at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul and travel to the University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis or transfer at Metrodome Station to the Hiawatha line to reach the Mall of America or the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Once Southwest is built, riders from Eden Prairie will be able to ride the future 26-mile Green Line through downtown Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota, state Capitol area and downtown St. Paul without changing trains. They also will be able to transfer to the Hiawatha or Northstar lines at the Interchange being built at Target Field Station.
While track installation and rail welding will continue throughout the remainder of the year on the Central Corridor, this weld is a significant milestone.
"This weld is our own version of the golden spike for the transcontinental railroad, as it connects the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis," Fuhrmann said. "By connecting Central Corridor Green Line with the Hiawatha Blue Line, we will expand environmentally friendly, affordable transit options for residents of St. Paul, Minneapolis and the region."
By the end of July, the project was 68 percent complete and well on its way to achieving the 75 percent completion milestone by the end of the year.