At long last, the Hiawatha light rail line is finally complete. The last planned stop, the America Boulevard Station located in Bloomington at 34th Avenue, opened on Saturday. And it opened ahead of schedule, as the work wasn't even supposed to be finished until January.
The $3.3 million station was included in the original plans for the light rail line, but its construction was deferred when the south end of the 12-mile route was redesigned, said Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit. Money to build the new station came from the Bloomington Port Authority, Hennepin County, Metropolitan Council and the federal government.
The new station is northeast of the Mall of America and a short distance from Bloomington Central Station. Three hotels, an office complex and large long-term parking lots are located nearby. The area is being redeveloped and Bloomington MN
officials view the new station as a key component to the plans.
"It serves a section of the Airport South district that we hope will become part of a new residential neighborhood," said Larry Lee, director of community development for the city. "It's especially important for residents, but ... tourists and business people [also] have the option of getting around by LRT instead of riding in a car."
That vision of a community built around transit is already a reality at the Reflections condo development by Bloomington Central Station, Lee said. Many couples who bought homes there have gone from two cars to one and some are living with no car at all, he said.
The north end of the line was completed in November when a new station opened in Minneapolis at Target Field. That station also serves as a link for Hiawatha riders to the Northstar commuter rail line.
Speaking of the Northstar, Metro Transit has announced that 33,112 people rode the trains during the first 15 days of service. The new rail line, which began transporting commuters between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis in mid-November, includes the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and a special event train added for a Vikings game.
Minnesota's first commuter rail line offers five morning rush-hour trips to Minneapolis
and five return trips in the afternoon, plus one weekday morning and evening trip in the opposite direction. Three trips in each direction are available on weekend days.
Daily rides so far, including weekends, average 2,207, compared with an average daily goal of 2,460 in 2010.