Duluth transit center is a go (take virtual tour)Money included in last week’s state bonding bill means that work will begin this year on a long-planned, $27.5 million Multimodal Transportation Center at Third Avenue West and Michigan Street in downtown Duluth.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Money included in last week’s state bonding bill means that work will begin this year on a long-planned, $27.5 million Multimodal Transportation Center at Third Avenue West and Michigan Street in downtown Duluth.
The center will allow passengers to transfer between city and intercity buses, catch taxis and easily walk to downtown or the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, Canal Park and Bayfront Festival Park areas. Supporters say it also will reduce problems with parking, sidewalk congestion and pedestrian safety near the Holiday Center.
“This is a huge announcement for downtown Duluth,” Mayor Don Ness said at a news conference Monday announcing that $6 million from the state had been secured for the project. It was the last piece of financing needed for the center, which will be built where the Wells Fargo parking ramp now stands.
The project will require the closure of the existing Northwest Passage skywalk to the DECC for as much as three months in the summer or fall of 2013 while a new skywalk is built. That will affect thousands of people who park at the DECC and work downtown or who attend DECC events and walk from downtown. Officials at the Duluth Transit Authority and the DECC are discussing the possibility of establishing a shuttle system during construction, DTA General Manager Dennis Jensen said.
Though at first glance the Legislature’s $496 million bonding bill didn’t appear to contain money for the transit center, $6.4 million was allocated to “Greater Minnesota Transit.”
Duluth Multimodal Center Animation, courtesy of duluthtransit.com:
With the support of Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, and lobbying by Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, and Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials agreed to direct $4.5 million of the bonding bill money to the Duluth center, Reinert said.
MnDOT has agreed to provide the remaining $1.5 million required for center, he said.
“We had a verbal commitment late last week,” said Reinert, who voted “no” on the state Senate’s $496 million bonding bill passed May 7 in part because, he said at the time, of its lack of regional balance.
The DTA expects to begin demolishing the parking ramp later this year. Construction of the four-level, 188,000-square-foot building will begin in the spring of 2013, with completion estimated at late 2013 or early 2014.
The center will include an indoor terminal for passengers transferring between buses, an indoor boarding platform for eight buses, ticketing and information center, a bike storage area, a police substation and 410 spaces for public and private parking. The current ramp has 165 spaces.
The center also will serve as a boarding location for Jefferson Lines and Indian Trails inter-city bus lines, along with Arrowhead Transit and LCS Coaches. Also included in the center will be drive-through Wells Fargo banking services and retail space.
It will provide pedestrian access to the Depot and the proposed passenger rail station, and a new skywalk connection to Superior Street, as well as a new Northwest Passage skywalk to the DECC with a pedestrian/bike walkway.
“It’ll be a bright, modern skywalk corridor over the freeway AND it won’t smell like wet dog every time it rains (unlike now),” Ness wrote on Facebook before the news conference in the skywalk at Michigan Street and Third Avenue West. “Right now it’s a narrow, dark, and unpleasant walk — this new corridor will encourage convention goers to take that walk into Downtown.”
Then-U.S. Rep. James Oberstar helped secure a $16 million grant for the center in 2010. At that time the proposed center was larger and costlier — an estimated $40 million to $50 million — and located across Fifth Avenue West from the Depot.
“We wondered what would happen with our project” when Oberstar wasn’t re-elected two years ago, Jensen said.
What happened was that plans changed, with a smaller center planned for the site of the 43-year-old Wells Fargo parking ramp owned by INREIT Real Estate Investment Trust.