Metro Transit Will Upgrade Blue Line

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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Courtesy of Tony Webster

MINNEAPOLIS – In a project that is reported to cost $120 million, Metro Transit will upgrade its Blue Line that has been in use for the last twenty years.

Metro Transit will reportedly upgrade its Blue Line after 20 years. According to a report from MinnPost, the project could cost around $120 million to upgrade everything. The Blue Line State-of-Good Repair Phase 3 (BLOSGR3) shows the infrastructure that is anticipated to be replaced includes signals & signal components, turnouts & turnout equipment, rail in high wear areas (such as curves, tunnels, grade crossings), and communications equipment.

According to the report, $8.75 million will go toward the rebuild of Lake Street/Midtown station with another $101 million to rebuild track and signals between Cedar Riverside and Bloomington Central stations. $12 million is expected to be used to remove rusted structural members “from 27 of its oldest light rail trains.”

The original segment from Hennepin Avenue to the Mall of America cost $715.3 million to build, and ridership exceeded expectations. Since then, Metro Transit “expanded its platforms to handle three-car trains, expanded the size of its two park-and-rides serving the route, built a new light rail station, and bought more than 20 light rail vehicles from two different vendors.”

Back in 2017, Metro Transit completed some track work including the replacement of rail, switches, and signals. In 2022, the agency replaced rail and completed signal work between Mall of America and Bloomington Central Station. Now, the agency will replace rail and signals this spring between Bloomington Central and Terminal 2 Stations. This is reported to cost $18.6 million. Similar work will take place next year between Terminal 2 and Cedar-Riverside. There has not been a cost announced for this work.

For next year’s work, Metro Transit spokesperson, Drew Kerr said “Prior to construction, Metro Transit will launch a communication campaign using its website, social media, text/email alerts, station and vehicle signage, and station ambassadors to promote when and where replacement bus service will be needed.” On April 8th, Met Council members will meet with Metro Transit staff at a Transportation Committee meeting.

Additionally, Metro Transit is expected to rebuild the Lake Street/Midtown Station. This is because elevators and escalators are breaking down repeatedly, and there is a concern with drug use occurring at the station. Project manager Christina Morrison said at a Transportation Committee meeting that the station “sees a lot of foot traffic, combined with we’ve had sort of an increase at the station of repairs, replacement and damage and vandalism over the past few years.” To rebuild the station, the agency may remove the shelters on the platforms and replacing them with one canopy as well as replace elevators and escalators with stairways and a ramp. 

Construction is slated to start in 2025 and finish at the end of 2026. Currently, 27 light rail vehicles are in Tallulah, Louisiana to undergo work to remove rust. This is because the agency found “the cars had rusted to where its maintenance staff could not handle the workload,” even though the agency had started addressing the rust issue back in 2017. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005 president David Stiggers said “The work should have been done a lot earlier, which would have made it a lot more easier, a lot more efficient.”

Met Council awarded a $12 million contract to RailCar (a rail engineering and accident investigation firm) to perform maintenance work on the cars. To prevent the cars from becoming too rusted to work on, the Met Council “also pledged to remove rust from light rail vehicles more often, every seven or eight years, moving forward.” Some of the first-generation light rail vehicles will be returned this spring with new flooring and wall paneling.

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