light rail(Because) Ugly is Forever

As a long-time Minneapolis resident, homeowner, taxpayer, parent, parent of a serious teenage bicyclist, local Realtor, native Minnesotan, U of MN alum, arts and culture patron, Cedar Lake neighbor (and maybe a few other hats I can’t think of at the moment), there are few people with more of a vested interest in “getting light rail right.”

That is, making sure that such a major capital improvement lasting a century (or hopefully longer) is well-conceived, funded, and implemented.

So, here goes:  by all means, get that discount gallon of milk or cheap rental car.

chain lakesBut when it comes to a truly big-ticket, community-defining choice . . . no short cuts.

If that didn’t already show my hand, here it is:  the Twin Cities should commit to building a deep tunnel between Minneapolis’ Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles that leaves the Greenway there in its current, unspoiled condition (vs. a loud, congested corridor with no room for pedestrians and bicylists).

That’s the case even though that option would add an estimated $300 million to the cost of the Light Rail Transit (“LRT”) Southwest Corridor.

The Deep Tunnel Option — With a Twist

Minnesota doesn’t have mountains, oceans, or benign weather (hardly).

What it does have are the Mississippi River, Lake Superior, the BWCA, and, in the Twin Cities, beautiful public spaces — and lots of ’em (I seem to recall something about “10,000 lakes” on the state license plate as well).

wecareOf course, Minneapolis’ crown jewel is the Chain of Lakes and adjacent parks.

While there’s no balance sheet that records their value (why not?), I’ve got to believe that preserving the lakes’ character while nurturing the area’s nascent bike trail system is worth a couple hundred million.

If you need a little context, that’s about what the Twin Cities invested in the now-obsolete Metrodome.

Thirty years ago.

Keep it Local

Along with committing to the more expensive but sensible (and dare I say self-interested) option, policy makers should ensure that the money is spent locally.

Do that by hiring local contractors, using local employees.

savetrailApplying what economists call a “multiplier effect,” $300 million in public expenditures would turn into something like $1.5 billion in car purchases, clothes, new furniture, travel, and — yes — household formation and home purchases.

Want to know why metro Boston is doing so well?

Lots of universities, high-tech, an educated work force, and a harbor are certainly a (very) good start.

But the $30 billion injection — spread over a decade — that Boston received for The Big Dig didn’t exactly hurt.

Whaddya say, Twin Cities??

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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