Mpls committee approves streetcar plan called "boondoggle of highest order" by Cam Winton

Mplsstreetcarrender1.jpg
Renderings released by city of Minneapolis
With a car driving down the train tracks along Eat Street, it looks like the engineers still have some work to do, doesn't it?
Yesterday, the Minneapolis City Council's Transportation & Public Works Committee recommended approval of a plan that would install a roughly $200 million, 3.4 mile streetcar line from Northeast to South Minneapolis.

SEE ALSO: Green Line test trains now running down University Avenue [IMAGES]

That sounds cool, but some, including mayoral candidate Cam Winton, argue the city would be much better off investing money in upgrading bus service instead of installing a more costly streetcar line along the bustling stretch of Central and Nicollet avenues extending from 5th Street on the north to 46th Street on the south, with a crossing above the Mississippi River along the Hennepin Avenue bridge. (The ultimate plan, as we detailed in June, is to extend the line more than five miles further north all the way up to 41st Avenue.)

During a hearing yesterday morning, Winton called the project a "boondoggle of the highest order." More from the Southwest Journal:
[Winton] noted that the streetcar line would cost about $52.9 million per mile -- higher than earlier estimates of around $40 million per mile. He criticized the plan for being more expensive and serving fewer riders than an enhanced bus line. He also suggested the claims about streetcars ability to generate new development in other cities can be attributed to tax-increment financing.
Indeed, according to MPR, bus enhancements down Central-Nicollet would cost about one-fourth as much as the proposed streetcar line.

But proponents of the plan argue it's about more than efficiency. During the same hearing, council member and mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges said, "Streetcars aren't just about getting from point A to point B. Streetcars are about economic development."

"They're about growing our population," Hodges continued. "They're about growing the services that go to that population and they're about growing our property tax base."

The Star Tribune details how the project would be funded, which still, in large part, remains to be determined:
About $60 million of [the approximately $200 million] will be funded by a state-approved "value capture district," which allows the city to redirect property taxes from several major development projects that are already underway across the city...

The rest of the funding relies on non-city sources that have yet to be identified. The mayor's office says that the Legislature must pass a transit sales tax in order for the plan to work.
Here's a couple more renderings showing how the streetcar would look running down Nicollet downtown and along East Hennepin in Northeast:

MplsStreetcarDT.jpg
MplsStreetcarEH.jpg

The plan will come before the full City Council next week.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.



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