HOPKINS, Minn. - It may be another four years before Southwest Light Rail carries any passengers but construction is already full speed ahead. Thursday, transit managers are in Hopkins to discuss the $2 billion project with residents.
The early work, including detours and road closures, is having a big impact on cyclists heading east out of Hopkins trying to use the popular Cedar Lake Trail to get in and out of downtown Minneapolis.
"You can’t let the little things get in the way of the bigger picture," says bike shop owner Jon Minks.
At Jonny Rock Bikes in Hopkins, the business has hit a bit of a bumpy road. Owner Jon Minks figures recent Southwest Light Rail construction detours on popular nearby trails has hurt him at the cash register. But Minks remains optimistic about the future with two transit stops planned within earshot of his Excelsior Boulevard shop.
"I’m looking forward to it," he says. "Hopefully it will bring more traffic and more revenue and more cyclists to the community of Hopkins."
With construction already shifting into high gear, project managers have held a series of open houses in communities that will eventually be served by the 14-and-a-half mile line, including Hopkins Thursday evening.
Out in Eden Prairie, crews are busy at the line’s terminus at Southwest station with more work being done at what’s known as the future Golden Triangle stop.
And at the other end of the project, in the Kenilworth corridor, trees are being cleared to make way for passenger traffic alongside freight. It’s all part of the state’s largest-ever public works undertaking with the goal of launching service in four years at a price tag of $2 billion.
"This is a big project that requires lots of coordination," said SWLRT project spokesman Trevor Roy. "We want to get it done in a timely and efficient manner, and that necessitates construction up and down the corridor."
Roy went on to point out this isn’t like the Transcontinental Railroad, where you start at one end and lay track in a straight line. Work will continue along different sections throughout, including on a handful of bridges and tunnels, to eventually connect Eden Prairie with Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.