New Hope for Southwest LRT
The proposed Southwest LRT's future is still in flux, but a new Hennepin County Board grant should help the project's forward movement after it missed out on ear-marked state bonding money. With construction season in full swing, the board approved $2 million in grants and loans supporting transit-oriented development along several of the county’s transit corridors.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines it as:
“compact, mixed-use development near transit facilities that promotes sustainable communities by providing people of all incomes with improved access to transportation and housing choices, reduced transportation costs that reduce the negative impacts of automobile travel on the environment and the economy.”
The funding helps start new projects and encourages continued investment in a more sustainable way of life.
While the majority of the money will go to mixed-use development projects around the Hiawatha and the Central Corridor LRTs, there is potentially good news for Southwest line development. The 8th Avenue Corridor Project in Hopkins is slated for a $400,000 grant.
The city will use county funding to buy property for anticipated light rail station parking. In the long run, the project entails redeveloping most of the area surrounding the station to create a more inviting, pedestrian friendly, livable neighborhood, one in which the ideals of transit-oriented development can thrive.
While the county’s infrastructure investment signals promising news for a 3rd metro area light rail, it's no guarantee the Southwest line or its downtown Hopkins station will ever get built.
This investment could mean increased support for the Southwest LRT, which so desperately needs local dollars to match potential federal funding, and it could mean making downtown Hopkins into a transit-oriented neighborhood with or without the public transit. Unfortunately though, the investment could mean little to keeping the Southwest LRT going, allowing for the entire 8th Avenue Corridor Project to fall apart.