Downtown Minneapolis will be without light-rail service for 11 days
Photo: GLEN STUBBE, STAR TRIBUNE FILE Light-rail service in downtown Minneapolis will be out of commission for 11 days as maintenance work is done.
Minneapolis light-rail riders, get ready to hoof it, bike it or take a replacement bus to finish your journey into downtown.
Starting Thursday, U.S. Bank Stadium Station will be the end of the line for both Blue and Green trains as Metro Transit begins an 11-day shutdown in the downtown area for a maintenance project that includes replacing tracks, repairing concrete and overhead wires, and improving signals.
“This will be a challenge as it is longer than we have ever experienced,” said Metro Transit spokesman Drew Kerr. “This will be unique for us and anybody downtown.”
The maintenance work will also impact downtown traffic as streets crossing the light-rail tracks will be closed at various times when new track is put down. The first to close will be the intersection of 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue from June 27 through July 2. Buses that normally run on Hennepin will be detoured to Marquette and 2nd avenues S.
The rail shutdown and intersection closures coincides with a big road construction project on Interstate 94 in which traffic will be sharing lanes inside the Lowry Hill Tunnel as part of a larger project that has the freeway down to two lanes in each direction between downtown and Brooklyn Center.
It also comes as Minneapolis hosts several large events that will bring thousands of visitors downtown, including Twin Cities Pride Festival Friday through Sunday and the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships running Saturday through July 4.
Conducting maintenance work during the peak of summer is not ideal, Kerr said, but if the weather turns sour Metro Transit needs a window of time to complete the work before winter.
“It’s summer and there is always something going on, and that makes it hard to schedule maintenance activities without running into something,” Kerr said. “There isn’t a perfect weekend for this. Anytime we have a disruption in service, we try do it in the least amount of time.”
Buses will fill in for trains between the Vikings’ stadium and Target Field from 6:45 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. July 3 in what will be the longest disruption in light-rail service since trains began operating in 2004.
Trains will operate as normal along the Blue Line between U.S. Bank Stadium and the Mall of America and on the Green Line between U.S. Bank Stadium and Union Depot in St. Paul.
But for the 16,000 riders who get on or off trains at Government Plaza, Nicollet Mall, Hennepin/Warehouse or Target Field stations each day, they will have to find their way from the rail platform across the street from the Vikings’ stadium to their final destination.
“For those who want to get extra steps on their Fitbit, this will be an opportunity to do that,” Kerr said, noting that it is only four blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium to Government Plaza, seven blocks to Nicollet Mall and a little over a mile to Target Field.
During the rail shut down, Nice Ride Minnesota is offering a deal for anybody who wants to start or complete their trips on a two-wheeler. The bike sharing company will charge only $1 for the first 30 minutes for those who use the app to reserve a bike. Rides exceeding 30 minutes will be charged $3 per half-hour, the normal fee. The closest Nice Ride station to U.S. Bank Stadium is located at S. 4th Street and Park Avenue S., and it will be bigger than other stations, said Nice Ride Executive Director Bill Dossett.
Light-rail trains run on 5th Street. Eastbound replacement buses will operate on 4th Street and westbound buses will operate on 3rd Street and Washington Avenue. Kerr suggested the biking or walking options since buses will run one to three blocks from where trains normally run and trips could take longer.
“Our goal is to replicate train service as best we can, but we will be in traffic in peak periods and we know that in rush hour going 3 blocks can be a bit long and riding a bus might not be ideal.”