The second major portion of the Environmental Impact Statement deals with transportation and traffic issues. It's fair to say that there are reasons to be concerned about real infrastructure stresses as people arrive before games and leave afterward. Some intersections in the warehouse district are predicted to be almost gridlocked unless changes are made between now and then. But this is not a surprise.
What did surprise me, and actually made my jaw drop, was this little nugget:
It should be noted that currently, there are no plans for the Northstar commuter rail service to be available for Ballpark events. Northstar commuter rail could become a great resource for transporting people to the game and reducing parking and traffic levels. However, for purposes of this analysis, zero percent of the Ballpark patrons were assumed to utilize the Northstar commuter rail. (EIS, page 45)
At first, I thought this might just be the safest assumption to make given the purpose of the document. But in the next section, there is a grid of possible changes which could be made to mitigate some of the anticipated traffic problems. Each possible change is rated with a general cost estimate, and a general estimate of the likelihood that it might happen. In that grid is the following:
The North Star Commuter rail service should be explored as another supplementary transit option. Currently, commuter rail would only operate during a.m. and p.m. peak hours to accommodate those working in downtown Minneapolis or transfer to LRT. This option might be dependent on the availability of commuter trains and available rail time. Cost: Moderate. Feasibility: Unlikely. (EIS, page 71)
So let me get this straight: Our brand new Urban Ballpark has been highly touted as becoming a perfect mass transit hub by being strategically located at the junction of two major passenger rail lines -- only there won't be any Northstar passenger trains after games. How stupid is this?
Surely there are Twins fans in Fridley, Coon Rapids, Anoka, Elk River, Big Lake and beyond, right? That's Twins Territory too, isn't it? Is there a better, easier, faster, and potentially cheaper way to get to the ballpark than taking a train which stops right on its doorstep? You only have to look at the completely packed light rail cars before and after games these days to know the answer to that question.
At left, across the tracks by that pile of dirt is where the Northstar commuter train platform will be built, and where Twins fans will apparently NOT be able to get a train after night games. (For reference, that's the Fifth Street bridge, with the ballpark site just beyond it. The east corner of Ford Centre is just visible at the right edge of the picture.)
Five trains will run from Big Lake to Minneapolis with one reverse trip during weekday mornings. During weekday afternoons & evenings five trains will run from Minneapolis to Big Lake with one reverse trip. Each weekend day, three roundtrips will be provided; as well as, possible special event service.
Millers fans leaving Nicollet Park after a game in 1923, where a trolley was waiting. (Click to enlarge.)
At least that leaves the door open.
I have to believe that this is some sort of political issue, and maybe the report included these statements just to make the point that the current plans are going to have to be changed. Much can and will change in the next three years, and I'm sure this isn't set in stone. Somewhere along the line this will probably get figured out.
But one way to hobble a new passenger rail line is to limit its flexibility (as was tried with the light rail line). And I know that there are still people in the Legislature who doubt the feasibility of commuter rail and are actively trying to kill this project (and several others like it which hover just off the radar). That could be what's at work behind the scenes, implied by the inclusion of this little nugget in the ballpark documents.
There is some comfort in the certainty that opponents of commuter rail will be mighty embarrassed one day about ever doubting these sure-to-succeed-beyond-anyone's-wildest-imagination projects.
That is if they can figure out how to get people home after games.
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3033 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
The mounds have grown seating supports
Just so you have a reference, this is an LD ("low def") scoreboard (inset is what the controller probably looks like).
Evidence of a food court behind the seating above the batter's eye
I'll admit that this makes me nervous. It's pretty easy to step into the path of a train (which is true at various points along the line, but still...)
The Metropolitan Club (click to enlarge)
To the left, out of view, was a row of guys in very nice suits. Most I did not recognize.
Another piece of the neighborhood puzzle: the Northstar platform.
Bassett Creek's path through the ballpark site (Source: Minneapolis Public Library)
Wrigley Field viewed while approaching on foot from the northwest
This appears to be the floor to the home dugout!
The view from the upper concourse.
At the end of the balcony you can see down the promenade.
Section 101, Row 27
An alternate route into downtown. (Click to get an interactive map.)
Legend's Club, Section E (Click to enlarge greatly.)
The main ticketing area beneath the restaurant.
Working on the connecting LRT tracks (this view looks up Fifth Street toward downtown.)
Click to enlarge
Lunch break at the top spot. (Grandstand)
It's pretty easy to see right into the Twins dugout!
Looking the other direction, again from Ford Centre, you can see what's going on over the tracks. This will be a public promenade.
A detailed crowd shot. Click to enlarge greatly.
Delmon Young getting warmed up
This is the last hope for so-called knot-hole views. I'm skeptical.