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 3019 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
One of the many supports being built over the tracks.
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
Serious home dugout work in progress.
Work in progress to improve the streetscape on Second Avenue
This is a slightly blurry view of the pavilion in center. It has a quirky shape, but one which is completely consistent with the overall ballpark design. Nice work there. You can also get a glimpse of the greenery which will rise above the fences.
A sign that your mall is all but dead: roped off escalators. (This is at about 4:00 PM on a weekday.)
The glass area seen here is one of the warm-up areas.
Very interesting detail starting to appear here.
This is the actual entrance for Gate 6. Notice how close the seating will be. The back row of the lower deck will be mere inches beyond that inner support post.
This little item stands just to the south of the site, where the volleyball courts used to be. It has to be related to exterior finishing elements, which means this is the first glimpse of the actual stone to be used. Very buttery.
A very busy place, as viewed from Target Center.
Click to enlarge.
Selling exactly what they say they're selling.
This is the trapezoid (for lack of a better name) in right center. Be sure to notice section of seats just below the pavilion and above the fence (which I hadn't noticed before). For those who are interested, what looks like an old-style scoreboard is in fact a high-def video board which will look, at times, like an old-fashioned scoreboard.
These are the outside tracks which go under the promenade
A mural featuring the names of a bunch of Minnesota towns.
The pouring is taking place at the very bottom of this photo.
Fifth Street louvers way up close
Gate 3 "Killebrew"
Open concourses do mean that you can glimpse the field no matter where you are, but not really the game.
The right field overhang as seen from Seventh Street (with dude)
Artist at work
A few details worth noticing (Kauffmann Stadium, New Comiskey, Comerica Park, Source: LP)
This looks up Fifth Street (LRT train visible in the distance). This bridge is also being partially rebuilt (see next photo).