Making the light rail's Blue Line longer will cost nearly $1.5 billion

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Tacking on 13 miles to the light rail's Blue Line, stretching it from downtown Minneapolis all the way to Target's Brooklyn Park campus, will cost about $1.488 billion.

That's what the Metropolitan Council said in a news release outlining an updated proposal for the project. (For an explanation of what the Met Council does, check out this breakdown.)

The Blue Line Extension would be 13 miles, and travel from Target Field first to stops in North Minneapolis, then head through the north metro with stations in Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park. (See the map at right for details, and click to make it bigger.)

But the route, the news release says, needs some work: seven new bridges, more retaining walls, some work on Highway 55, a station at Plymouth Avenue, and more.

That work, plus some adjustments for inflation as the years go on, is what produced the $1.488 billion number. The cost would be a 50/50 split between the federal government and state/local agencies, the Met Council says.

None of this has been approved or agreed to by any of the project partners. The Corridor Management Committee (which includes elected officials and representatives from communities along the proposed route) will weigh in, choosing to support the plan and cost-estimate, offer revisions, or suggest cost adjustments.

The Metropolitan Council will then take a look at what they say on Nov. 12 and, if things continue to advance, the counties and cities involved could act by early March of 2016. Service could begin in 2021.

Part of the push, planners say, is to give that population (expected to grow by 110,000 in the next 25 years, with many becoming senior citizens in that time) a reliable transportation option, spurring access to good jobs even if households don't own a car.

Not the Southwest Light Rail line

This extension, in case you're getting mixed up, is different from the Southwest Light Rail line that would go from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. That plan had $250 million cut from the cost, and local governments pledged to throw in additional $90 million – all to get the ballooning cost of the project down to $1.74 billion.

The light rail line is scheduled to open in 2020, and officials predict weekday ridership will reach 34,000 by 2040.

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