Twin Cities Met Council Wants to Spend $2 Billion on an 11-Mile Streetcar

An amendment to the Twin Cities Met Council’s 2040 Transportation Policy Plan includes $2 billion in funding for a modern streetcar route that would be just 11 miles in length.

The Met Council hosted a public hearing Wednesday for its Riverview Modern Streetcar project, which would stretch from Union Depot in downtown St. Paul to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America.

According to the amendment, the 11.7-mile streetcar comes with an estimated cost of $2 billion and would include 20 different stations. The project plans to use nine existing stations serving the Green Line and Blue Line of the Light Rail.

On top of the $2 billion in construction costs, the Met Council estimates that the streetcar would cost $35 million per year in maintenance and operation.

Riverview Corridor LPA map


Sources of revenue for the project include:

  • $206.6 million in property taxes
  • $1.0 billion in Federal Capital Investment Grants
  • $847.1 million in county sales taxes

For operation costs, the project will rely on fares, the State General Fund, and county sales taxes.

The Met Council argues that the streetcar will increase “access to destinations” and help facilitate a more “competitive economy.” The project will begin its Capital Investment Grants Project Development phase in 2023, and is projected to be completed by 2031.

Interestingly, the Met Council notes that the Riverview Modern Streetcar project “will result in slight increases (mostly less than one percent) in accessibility to jobs and other community amenities.”

“The Riverview corridor is an existing high-frequency transit corridor that serves two regional job concentrations and areas of concentrated poverty along Highway 5 in St. Paul and around the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport,” the amendment states. “The proposed project would provide an enhanced customer experience and additional transit capacity in this corridor.”

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners endorsed the streetcar project in 2018.

“A robust transit network is essential for the entire Twin Cities region to remain competitive with our national peers,” Ramsey County Board Chair Jim McDonough said. “Modern streetcar provides the right balance of capacity and size, high level service, and long-term growth opportunity to best connect travelers, employees, and visitors to businesses, destinations and travel connections throughout the historic Riverview corridor.”

Center of the American Experiment economist John Phelan opposes the project, calling it a “waste” of money.

“If we need more capacity between Union Depot and the airport/Mall of America, add more buses to the route. It will be a sight cheaper than spending $2 billion on a streetcar. It wall also have the benefit that it won’t involve shutting down West 7th for three years while it is done,” Phelan said, noting that “once you’ve built tracks, you’re stuck with them.”

“Kids like playing with train sets. Most people grow out of that. If you didn’t, get yourself on the Met Council,” he added.

In November, the Met Council also received approval from the federal government to begin construction on its controversial $2 billion Light Rail extension.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Minnesota Light Rail” by Tony Webster. CC BY-SA 2.0.











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