I-35W Access Concept Layouts Approved: City and County Also Adopt Transit Lane Policy

I-35W Access Concept Layouts Approved

City and County Also Adopt Transit Lane Policy

Timed to send a positive signal to Allina Hospitals and Clinics as it considered the Midtown Exchange project at the former Sears site for a new corporate headquarters, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and Minneapolis City Council adopted resolutions (on January 27, 2004, and January 30, 2004) approving the Preferred Build Alternative concept plan for the I-35W Access Project. Both the County Board and the City Council also approved new policy to support freeway capacity improvements in the form of a fifth lane in each direction for Bus Rapid Transit.

As local government acted, South Minneapolis neighborhoods also stated their strong support for Access and Allina.

On February 10, the Phillips and Midtown Community Works Partnerships joined to present the grand opening ceremony for Carne Asada, a new Mexican restaurant at Chicago-Lake and the latest in a series of major improvements there.

The next week, Allina announced that it would indeed consolidate its corporate operations in the Midtown Exchange, bringing more than 1,000 mostly professional jobs to Phillips.


Peter McLaughlin, County Commissioner
“This resolution comes about after almost a decade of effort by both public and private sectors to help restore an economic base in the Phillips Neighborhood. That’s what this is about. There has been investment in fighting crime. There has been an investment in housing. There has been investment in job training, tied particularly to the hospital in the Phillips Neighborhood, but in other areas as well. And, there was an effort to try to invest in needed infrastructure.”


Mayor R.T. Rybak
“It’s time to call the question, and to move forward with this as part of a larger vision in which we provide access to more people to this area, in which we can integrate that with bus rapid transit on 35W and the transportation vision we have for the Midtown Greenway and the innovative way we’re beginning to look at restructuring Lake Street.”


Gary Schiff, Council Member

“This is correcting something that is probably one of the most short sighted urban planning mistakes that I can think of in the Twin Cities. Access will be good, and all the small business owners on Lake Street know it. These are small, mom-and-pop operations that provide the majority of new job growth in the country today. And they know that this project is going to improve small businesses.”


Gail Dorfman, County Commissioner 
“This has been an intense process, with over 250 community meetings, but truly unique partnerships were created. Together, we have figured out a new way to plan the future of this major highway. And the community participation has resulted in major design improvements. We have done a pretty good job balancing all of the different interests. This is not the end of the process, and so we will continue working with the neighborhoods and the businesses and MnDOT up until the day that construction begins on this project.”


Paul Ostrow, Council President
“We need to applaud the tremendous progress that’s been made.”


Randy Johnson, County Commission Chair


“The decisions that were made in the 1960’s with freeway construction certainly contributed to the economic decline of Lake Street and nearby businesses. Decisions that I think would not be made that way now if people had the foresight to see what would happen."


Access Project: Consensus Grows for Comprehensive I-35W Vision

Consensus Grows for Comprehensive 35W Vision

Access Project’s future now tied to regional rapid bus issue

December 2004—After seven years of planning that culminated in city and county approvals nearly a year ago, the I-35W Access project to provide better freeway interchanges with south Minneapolis streets still has a few more issues to resolve before details of its construction will be cemented.

Crosstown traffic
Because the Access project’s design for I-35W leaves space for a future high-occupancy vehicle or bus rapid transit (BRT) lane in each direction, and because it builds a BRT station on I-35W at Lake Street, the project has become swept up in the larger regional transportation picture. Minneapolis has withheld its consent on another major I-35W project in south Minneapolis, the Highway 62 “Crosstown” interchange project, in a bid to extend BRT lanes into downtown.

In an effort to move the Crosstown project forward, a special appeals board is expected to convene in mid-January to hear this and other differences between Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The disposition of this issue will light the course for both final design and funding of the Access project.

Other variables
Meanwhile, an MnDOT study of BRT on I-35W is expected to reach the state legislature by the end of the year. And on December 15, the Metropolitan Council will take action on its 2030 Transportation and Transit Plan, which recognizes the I-35W corridor as a high priority for BRT service.

Many other transportation funding plans are in the works for local and state consideration, including proposals and evaluations from Governor Pawlenty, the Itasca Project of Minnesota CEO’s, the Minnesota Chambers of Commerce, the Minnesota Business Partnership, North Area Mayors Association, Association of Minnesota Counties, and the I-35W Solutions Alliance. 

Money talks
Each of these plans may affect the calculus of state bonding required to extend BRT. Though the Access project has accumulated $53 million in committed funds to date, a new funding plan will need to account for the possible addition of BRT lanes on I-35W north of 46th Street.

The centerpiece of the Phillips Partnership’s infrastructure initiative, the I-35W Access project was designed with exhaustive community input to improve freeway access and expand transit service in South Minneapolis, with a focus on the Lake Street corridor. Using an impacts mitigation plan of unprecedented scale, Access will introduce urban design around the freeway that is conducive to safer streets and the revitalization of neighborhoods. The project is expected to cost $150 million.

Changes Abound for Health Careers Partnership

Changes Abound for Health Careers Partnership

New name, new location, new priorities 

“HCP has always provided a unique chance for disadvantaged clients to enter the medical profession through sponsorship. This effort will likely grow as a percentage of the program’s activity, as it’s the core service whose need has not diminished with market trends.”    —Steve Cramer, director,     Project for Pride in Living

“HCP has always provided a unique chance for disadvantaged clients to enter the medical profession through sponsorship. This effort will likely grow as a percentage of the program’s activity, as it’s the core service whose need has not diminished with market trends.”

—Steve Cramer, director, 

Project for Pride in Living

December 2004—The Health Careers Partnership, formerly the Health Careers Institute, will begin 2005 with a new home and a new set of strategies for training and placing its students in a local healthcare market that has changed significantly over the program’s short life. 

The program’s new strategic focus will reconcile HCP’s flexible market-driven approach with its long-term commitment to providing employment training for Phillips residents.

Program administrators at Project for Pride in Living say they and staff of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, which delivers the curriculum and training, have been busy instituting a response to a strategic direction adopted by the Phillips Partnership earlier this year. That document identified key challenges created by HCP’s rapid transformation from an experiment in grassroots career training to the largest hospital-based jobs program of its kind in the nation.


The partnership’s evaluation found that the three hospital partners in HCP – Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, and the Hennepin County Medical Center – have significantly fewer job openings than in 2000, when the program was formed in response to a glut of unfilled medical and support positions. The partner hospitals now are filling more of those openings with existing staff. 

The Health Careers Partnership has also become decentralized. With coursework shifting from Phillips to downtown Minneapolis and the transfer of hospital human resource departments out of Phillips, the “one-stop” opportunity for prospective enrollees to live, study and work in the same neighborhood has diminished.


Steve Cramer, director of Project for Pride in Living, said that HCP will increasingly serve the niche function of promoting diversity within the healthcare profession. This will involve intensifying existing outreach to minorities, immigrants and residents of the Minneapolis Empowerment zone. 

“HCP has always provided a unique chance for disadvantaged clients to enter the medical profession through sponsorship. This effort will likely grow as a percentage of the program’s activity, as it’s the core service whose need has not diminished with market trends.” 

He added that this emphasis complements the “soft-skills” coursework of PPL’s Train to Work program, which has prepared hundreds of unskilled workers for entry-level jobs.

Strategies for repositioning HCP currently being pursued include more aggressive tracking of projected job openings at partner hospitals to focus job-placement efforts and curriculum offerings; communicating more intensively with healthcare providers and program staff; continuing the expansion of job placement efforts among non-hospital employers; and adopting a more responsive governance structure.

The Phillips Partnership and HCP agree that by drawing on the program’s historic strengths – long-term commitment to career-laddering and the Phillips neighborhood, responsiveness to market needs, and efficient collaboration among its partners – they can produce continued success over the long term.

Phillips "CLEAN"s Up with Focus on Recidivism, Litter

Citizens and Law Enforcement Action Network Has Strong Debut

Phillips “CLEAN”s Up with Focus on Redidivism, Litter

All smiles at the Phillips Community CleanSweep.

All smiles at the Phillips Community CleanSweep.

December 2004—Inspector Scott Gerlicher of Third Precinct said CLEAN has quickly proven the most sophisticated of several crime-watch programs in the city, thanks to support from highly networked community groups in Phillips. 

Though numbers on the first six months of the program are still being tabulated, Gerlicher said CLEAN has put a palpable dent in criminal activity in the precinct’s most afflicted corridors – and has enabled law enforcement and the community to work better together at a time when slashed departmental budgets have resulted in fewer officers on the street and fewer prosecutions of livability crimes in the court system.

“It’s really there in the name: Citizens and Law Enforcement Action Network,” he said. “Every word has delivered on its part of the solution.”

CLEAN has been so effective, Gerlicher said, that he will seek to expand its focus to include prostitution. Thus far, the program has focused on tracking repeat offenders with histories of narcotics, robbery, loitering and assault.

Community groups propose more help

In the next year, the Third Precinct and the understaffed city attorney’s office may have additional reason to thank the community for its participation in CLEAN. 

In a joint project, Phillips Weed & Seed and the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association are assembling grants to create a community staff position to research, document, and build cases on misdemeanor offenses going into Judge Hopper's Livability Court. Better cases, said Gerlicher, will mean stronger sentencing and fewer offenders back on the street after only a day or two in jail.

Elena Gaarder, director of PPNA, said the requested a two-year, $125,000 Empowerment Zone grant would also be used to expand PPNA’s Midtown Restorative Justice Program into Phillips. 

“We have been helping people who commit these livability crimes turn their lives around through Restorative Justice and feel that supporting CLEAN is a natural complement, letting us address both the causes and effects of self destruction, poverty and crime."

How CLEAN works

Begun in May, CLEAN is based on a core tenet of other anti-crime programs backed by the Phillips Partnership – that a relatively small number of chronic offenders are responsible for the preponderance of criminal complaints and tend to return to familiar streets after they pass through the revolving-door justice system for minor crimes.

CLEAN works this way: Lt. Rick Thomas of the Third Precinct regularly updates a list of chronic offenders active in three hot spots: Lake Street (Chicago to Cedar), Bloomington Ave (24th to Lake) and Franklin Ave. (Portland to Elliot). The repeat criminals he tracks, with the help of City Attorney Scott Christenson, have tripped a combination of alarms within the city’s law enforcement database – active warrants, multiple arrests, suspect in multiple crimes, conditional stays of sentencing.

The CLEAN list gets distributed through the email networks of neighborhood organizations, business associations, Phillips Weed & Seed and the Phillips Partnership, among several others. Beat officers also carry the list, as do community SAFE officers and probation enforcement officers. Enforcement encourages victims to file Community Impact Statements to bolster their cases, increasing the likelihood of sentencing. 

Early results, long-term perspective

In August, Lieutenant Thomas issued a report on the program’s first two months. The results were dramatic: of the 34 chronic offenders that debuted on the CLEAN list, six have been sentenced to prison time. Five more received workhouse time in excess of 60 days. Twelve had pending cases that could result in a stiff sentence. In all, 23 of the original 34 had been impacted by the collective efforts of the Phillips community and law enforcement. 

Gerlicher said that while grassroots organizations are the backbone of the community effort, the participation of influential sponsors like the Phillips Partnership is particularly useful in pressuring the judiciary to hand down stiffer sentences. He said that dealing with chronic offenders must be seen as a top-down community priority. 

“Judges need to be urged to view minor offenders not as a string of individual cases but a broader livability issue. When they see that it’s not just a few angry neighbors complaining that this guy or that guy is attracting trouble on this or that block, but that this offender is standing in the way of community well-being in the larger scheme of improvements and investments, then you start to see less tolerance for blight.”

Phillips Neighborhoods Unite for "CleanSweep"

More than 300 volunteers warmed up a very chilly morning by participating in the Phillips community "CleanSweep" on October 2. 

Fanning out from Park and Bloomington Avenues, they picked up street and residential trash throughout Phillips West, Midtown, East Phillips and Ventura Village. It was the first time that the four Phillips neighborhoods have united for a community event.

Muriel Simmons, chair of the Phillips West Neighborhood Organization, said, “We had an amazing turnout and we showed what this community can do by uniting.”

The CleanSweep, planned as the first in a series of anti-crime, quality-of-life events in Phillips, was sponsored by the Phillips Partnership and Phillips Weed & Seed.

Phillips Partnership Asked to Finance Affordable Housing at Midtown Exchange

Closing the Affordability Gap

Project for Pride in Living asks the Phillips Partnership to finance affordable housing at Midtown Exchange

"The Greenway at Midtown" townhomes

"The Greenway at Midtown" townhomes

December 2004—The Phillips Partnership is exploring options for financing the $730,000 gap between production cost and sales price that would allow non-profit developer Project for Pride in Living to offer 21 units of affordable housing out of a total of 52 new townhomes and flats being planned for the Midtown Exchange.

Ten of these units would be sold at 80 percent of median area income, and 11 at 50 percent.

When completed in the summer of 2006, “The Greenway at Midtown" will wrap a 1,425-stall parking ramp now under construction on the east side of 10th Avenue, across the street from the former Sears building. The units will face north onto the Midtown Greenway and east onto 11th Avenue. 

Average purchase price will be $185,000.

“The Greenway at Midtown project fulfills two very important objectives for the Midtown Exchange redevelopment,” said Rick Collins, lead developer for the Ryan Companies team on Midtown Exchange. “In addition to meeting very important affordability goals for ownership housing at Midtown Exchange, the project will provide a wonderful buffer to the neighborhood, effectively shielding our six-level parking ramp from our neighbors.”

Project manager Christopher Wilson said PPL has conducted focus groups that indicate a solid market for the one- and two-bedroom flats and townhomes. He said PPL is on schedule to begin pre-selling units by February 2005, with the goal of 50-percent sold before ground breaks in December of that year. He added that design development has begun on the site.

Children's Hospital Opens New Outpatient Tower

Children’s Hospital Opens New Tower

"One more welcome addition to the landscape of the Phillips neighborhood." The expansion is the latest major investment by a Phillips Partnership member.

"One more welcome addition to the landscape of the Phillips neighborhood." The expansion is the latest major investment by a Phillips Partnership member.

December 2004—A new addition has changed the look of the Children’s Hospital in the Phillips neighborhood. Opened in summer 2004, the “Tower” features four floors built on top of the south wing of the existing hospital building, adding more than 42,000 square feet of space, including a renovation of the existing second floor. The project has also added approximately 220 spaces to the existing public parking ramp adjacent to the hospital. 

“The expansion signifies our commitment on three fronts—to families who bring their children to us, to the professionals who help meet their health care needs, and to the Phillips community, our community” says Alan L. Goldbloom, MD, president and CEO of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics. “We also like to think of the Tower as one more welcome addition to the landscape of the Phillips neighborhood and symbolic of our commitment to the success of the Phillips Partnership,” said Goldbloom.

Built for outpatient surgery and clinic patients, the Tower greatly expands Children’s services for families. A check-in area is located on the renovated second floor, and two new 400-square-foot operating rooms are located on the third floor. The fourth floor houses specialty clinics and the fifth floor contains Children’s general pediatrics clinic. The signature elevator gives the Tower its name, running the height of the expansion. 

The $15 million Tower will add at least 50 new positions to Children’s Hospital’s staff, said Goldbloom. This is the latest in a series of major investments in the neighborhood by members of the Phillips Partnership. Next door, Abbott Northwestern Hospital has added $170 million in facilities in the past five years and has more than tripled (to 900) the number of employees who reside in south Minneapolis. Wells Fargo recently completed $175 million in expansions and improvements to its campus, producing 4,300 new jobs.

History of the I-35W Access Project

The Infrastructure initiative represents the Partnership’s commitment to create viable transportation options for and within the Phillips community. The Interstate-35W Access Project proposes to provide full and direct access to and from I-35W in the Lake Street area. Current local access to this major artery of our freeway system is limited and has stifled the economic vitality and opportunities in the Phillips neighborhood. 

Preliminary design plans as approved by the Project Advisory Committee
on November 26, 2002 (4MB pdf).


I-35W Access Project documents

Project Summary (20K pdf) 
Project Advisory Committee (20K pdf)
Planning Process (28K pdf) 
Approval Process (40K pdf)
Cost Breakdown (8K pdf)
Preliminary Environmental Assessment Findings for Preferred Alternatives (28K pdf)
What Happens in Detail Design? (8K pdf)
Traffic Projections by Neighborhood (12K pdf)

Mitigations & Enhancement documents

Chapter 1: Introduction (6.4MB pdf)
Chapter 2: Street Character (9.8MB pdf)
Chapter 3: Traffic Management (800K pdf)
Chapter 4: Active Transportation (1.6MB pdf)
Chapter 5: Structures (19MB pdf) 
Chapter 6: Land Use and Urban Design (19MB pdf)
Chapter 7: Preliminary Cost Estimate (350K pdf)
Chapter 8: Final Refinements and Acknowledgments (350K pdf)

In October of 1997, Allina Health System and Abbott Northwestern Hospital co-sponsored a transportation study to obtain viable options to improve accessibility to and from the hospital campuses housed directly in the Phillips Neighborhood, which led to freeway accessibility proposals to be incorporated into the partnership’s infrastructure initiative in 1998. 

In 1998, Congress appropriated $2 million for the design of improved access to and from I-35W, requiring the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin County, and the City to commit $400,000 to fund the required 20% local match. In July of 2001, Congress passed a Supplemental Appropriations Bill in which Congressman Martin Sabo earmarked another $4.7 million for the I-35W Access Project.

Access improvements are essential to supporting revitalization and growth along Lake Street, including surrounding businesses and residential areas. As this revitalization occurs, all modes of traffic — pedestrian, bicycle, cars, bus transit and commercial truck — are expected to increase. The new access proposals include capacity, transit station and urban design improvements.


Bird’s eye view of the I-35W Access Project area

“Rebuilding the Phillips community requires reconnecting it, its people and its enterprises to the broader economy. That is my vision; that is the vision of the Phillips Partnership. Reconnection is why we are working for better access to and from I-35W, an essential artery of the regional economy.”
     --Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner


Public Involvement

The Project Advisory Committee guides the decision making process and provides community input to project planning. Hennepin County Commissioners appointed committee members representing various neighborhood organizations, business groups, non-profit institutions and economic/environmental groups that will be affected by the work of the project. PAC members recommend the best construction and design options and alternatives to accommodate all interested parties. Based on these recommendations, the Phillips Partnership and Hennepin County will develop proposals to present to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Metropolitan Council for the construction of new access ramps. During a series of public meetings, residents and business owners within project boundaries asked questions and provided feedback on proposed ramp changes and selected preferred alternatives.

Aaron Isaacs of Metro Transit discusses the Project alternatives with an area resident.

Aaron Isaacs of Metro Transit discusses the Project alternatives with an area resident.

PAC members also formed a Mitigation/Enhancement Subcommittee to ensure mitigation and enhancement measures are incorporated into the eventual Project Design Plan. Subcommittee members established a clear set of purposeful goals early on by reviewing and discussing traffic management and calming measures for local streets potentially affected by the I-35W Access Project. Their mission: Create a project that not only ameliorates the adverse impacts caused by the construction of new highway infrastructure but actually enhances the lives of all the people in the community by improving the safety, well being, and cohesion of their neighborhoods.

Street calming is but one of several mitigation and enhancement measures that will be included within the eventual Project design plans. Other potential enhancements include landscaping and public art. Each mitigation and enhancement measure must respond to the requirements established by the Project Advisory Committee that the Access Project serves to enhance the area and improve current neighborhood conditions. Once the Subcommittee identifies proposed calming measures, project technical consultants will analyze them to determine their feasibility. The PAC will then review the Subcommittee’s recommendations and if adopted, these measures will be incorporated into the overall Project Design Plan.

Rebuilding Lake Street's "Mall of America"

Four Neighborhoods Surrounding Midtown Exchange Express Strong Support for Access and Allina

Letter to Minneapolis City Council submitted by presidents of neighborhood organizations


Our urban south Minneapolis communities have unraveled over the past 45 years producing at-risk neighborhoods. The reweaving process involves not only looking realistically at the problems but working together with national and local resources to build on the existing assets. Major corporate, government and neighborhood/private business initiated commitments have been made to south Minneapolis in the past 10 years. Here are some of the significant, “industrial-strength” commitments that have happened and are happening:

Portland Place - $13M – investment by Honeywell to build 54 mixed-income homes.

Joseph Selvaggio Initiative - $7M – housing renovation in an eight-block area west of Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Phillips Park Housing Initiative - $15M – funded by Lutheran Social Services and the Phillips Eye Institute – 29 new homeownership townhouses and property improvement.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage - $175M – to renovate and build their campus for 4,400 jobs – many from our neighborhoods.

Abbott Northwestern Hospital - $200M – to build a world-class facility for its cardiology, neurology, orthopedics and spine programs, and campus upgrades.

Midtown Greenway/Bikeway and Transit Linkage - $20M – being developed by Hennepin County using the former Soo Line Railroad corridor.

Colin Powell Youth Leadership Campus - $20M – soccer fields and a program center being developed by Urban Ventures at 4th Avenue and Lake Street

Hope Community - $13M – for 60 units of affordable housing at Children’s Village Center and Hope Community Court and campus development at Franklin and Portland Avenue.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics - $20M – ambulatory and surgical expansion specializing in kids and parking ramp facility. 

Midtown Phillips - $6M – vacant lot reduction program with construction of 40 new single-family homes in the last four years.

Intersection at Bloomington and Lake Street Redevelopment - $17M – 
- El Mercado Central with 47 small Latino businesses - $1M
- Antiques Minnesota Building for medium-sized business and theater - $3.9M
- MeGusta restaurant - $2M
- Jose Lala grocery store - $1.5M
- Guayaquil Ecuadorian restaurant - $1.5M
- East Phillips Commons - $7M – 36 affordable apartment units

Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches - $4.5M – Division of Indian Works and the Russ Ewald Center for Urban Service on Lake Street.

Gesco Construction, Inc. - $19M – scattered privately developed housing in the Phillips neighborhood by local minority-owned contractor.

These and other combined efforts are significant and are designed to act as serious seed projects that will see the rebirth of south Minneapolis to be once again livable, sustainable and safe. There is one major area that remains as a sinkhole until completion: The Sears Complex . . . .the former Lake Street “Mall of America.”

Allina is going to relocate its headquarters. One of their options is the former Sears building. Allina, Abbott Northwestern and the Phillips Eye Institute have long been part of the community healing story of south Minneapolis. Crime rates are lower and poverty is less concentrated because of this health community’s leadership and investment. Together with PPL they have produced a training program that gives many people in our communities living-wage jobs with benefits.

The Allina headquarters at the former Sears site would solidify the 1.2 million-square-foot Midtown Exchange development proposed by Ryan Companies. Allina would be the anchor tenant required to allow the site to be developed faster and with less risk of the development failing. Sears has been vacant for too long. A decision by Allina to locate here would be crucial to our remarkable and difficult neighborhood turnaround story.

The neighborhoods that surround the former Sears site overwhelmingly support Allina locating here. All four neighborhoods, Midtown Phillips, Phillips West, Central and Powderhorn Park have passed resolutions supporting Allina locating here. We all would like to see the former Sears site developed with a high number of jobs, including the 1,250 professional jobs that would come with Allina.

As leaders of the four neighborhoods that intersect at the former Sears site, we want our city leaders to know and appreciate that our community organizations overwhelmingly support Allina locating here. We ask that the Mayor and the City Council do everything in their power to persuade Allina to choose south Minneapolis for its corporate home. We also support Allina’s requirement that the City support the 35W/Lake Street Access Project as one of the conditions for picking Sears. We believe it is time for the City Council vote to support this project.

This is an exciting time in south Minneapolis and these are crucial foundational projects that can continue the process of once again having a thriving set of communities.

Muriel Simmons,

Phillips West

Shirley Heyer, 

Midtown Phillips

Staci Horwitz,

Powderhorn Park

Art Erickson,
Central Neighborhood

"The Allina headquarters at the former Sears site would solidify the 1.2 million-square-foot Midtown Exchange development proposed by Ryan Companies. Allina would be the anchor tenant required to allow the site to be developed faster and with less risk of the development failing. Sears has been vacant for too long. A decision by Allina to locate here would be crucial to our remarkable and difficult neighborhood turnaround story."

The Return of Rail: Full Circle in a Transportation Revolution

The Return of Rail

Full circle in a transportation revolution

Burning of the last Minneapolis streetcars, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

Burning of the last Minneapolis streetcars, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

Twin Cities Motor Bus Company bus, Minneapolis, 1935. Photo: Metro Transit

Twin Cities Motor Bus Company bus, Minneapolis, 1935. Photo: Metro Transit

The last run of the streetcars in Minneapolis, 6th Street and Hennepin, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

The last run of the streetcars in Minneapolis, 6th Street and Hennepin, 1954. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

A horse-drawn trolley car, Riverside Ave in Minneapolis, 1888. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

A horse-drawn trolley car, Riverside Ave in Minneapolis, 1888. Photo: Minneapolis Public Library

In the 1870s, a hodgepodge of horse-drawn streetcars in the downtowns, mills and factory districts of Minneapolis and St. Paul gave way to consolidated steam and then electric trolleys. As in growing cities across the country, trolleys transformed nearby farming villages into the first suburbs and created the daily commute. 

Gas-powered buses took hold after the technological proving grounds of World War I, bringing about a quick shift in demand and infrastructure.

Locally, when streetcars peaked in 1920, they provided 220 million rides per year—more than four times the number of rides that Metro Transit bus service provides today to a population nearly three times as large. The Twin Cities metro had one of the most advanced transit systems in the world.

Thirty years later, streetcars in the Twin Cities were on their way out. Transportation planning for the growing region had acceded to the allure of the automobile and the operational efficiencies of bus service.

Today, the region is faced not only with another generation of major growth but also with exurban sprawl. Compared with their forebears in the parkway generation, people caught in the snarls of the contemporary rush hour are less apt to associate car commuting with freedom. In the necessary search for alternatives, transit is again on the rise (Urban Land reports in May 2004 that “virtually every major city has, or is planning, some form of urban rail or rapid bus system”). 

Fittingly, Hiawatha light rail will begin operations nearly 50 years to the day after the last of the Twin Cities’ extensive streetcar system was yanked out of the ground.

"In 1920, the Twin Cities metro had one of the most advanced transit systems in the world."

More on the Twin Cities' history of mass transit:



LRT Facts

LRT Facts

Hiawatha Line

June 26, 2004, is opening day for Phase 1 of the 12-mile Hiawatha line, 12 stations between the warehouse district in downtown Minneapolis and Fort Snelling. 

In December 2004, Phase 2 will open, extending the line to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and the Mall of America for a total of 17 stations.


A weekday average of 20,000 daily trips is expected by mid-2005; half will be combined with bus service.

Forty-six bus routes will tie into LRT by December 2004.

LRT service (all all stops)
- Every 7.5 minutes during peak hours
- Every 15 minutes off-peak weekday
- Every 20 minutes nights, weekends

LRT park & rides
- 600 spaces, 28th and Bloomington
- 900 spaces, Fort Snelling

Lake Street enhancements
With the debut of LRT, the 53 bus will begin limited stop service across Lake Street.

The route will ultimately serve the Lake Street LRT station, the Midtown Exchange complex being developed on the former Sears site at Chicago Ave., and a planned express bus station at 1-35W.