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Light rail gets green light

The Metropolitan Council OK'd a transit plan on Wednesday that includes building a new light rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Star Tribune reported.

The approved plan calls for an 11-mile, 15-stop light rail line called the Central Corridor. The Pioneer Press, however, reported that the line would have 20 stops.

The line will cost $909 million to build and will open in 2014.

The Met Council has until September to request federal funding. If approved, the federal government would pay half the bill, and local governments would pay the rest.

Kathleen O'Brien, a vice president at the University of Minnesota, endorsed the plan "with reservations." The approved plan calls for turning Washington Ave. into a pedestrian mall.

The U hoped the plan could include a tunnel under the university, believing an at-grade line would cause traffic problems and would reduce patients' access to health care.

A tunnel would be too expensive, however, and would raise the project's price tage to a level too high to qualify for federal funding.

University officials were also concerned that vibrations from the line may cause problems in nearby laboratories.

O'Brien said the university prefers a northern route that would run through the Dinkytown area in lieu of the Washington Ave. route.

The U is in the process of conducting a study of the northern alignment. The results of the study will not be published until September.

If the Met Council goes ahead with the pedestrian mall plan for Washington Ave., the University would prefer to keep the 1,500 busses that use the street each day off it.

The pedestrian mall would also displace 25,000 vehicles per day that would have to be rerouted to surrounding streets.