Twin Cities (St. Paul-Minneapolis) Light Rail

What is the Target Goal?

The initial catalyst for the Central Corridor project was the desire to maximize opportunity for the region and to help move people to the job centers in the downtown areas of the Twin Cities, which would help the region to be more competitive. As the vision for the project evolved, city officials began to appreciate that providing mass transit along the Central Corridor could help revitalize the neighborhoods through which the light rail would pass, and make these communities more attractive and better places to live as a result of better transportation access. This project has helped orchestrate community redevelopment along the train route and create an environment which supports mixed income communities and thriving local commerce. 

Who Were the Partners?

 A set of far reaching partnerships within the philanthropic community and a broad spectrum of civic organizations enabled this project to succeed. The civic leadership in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul agreed early to take the time necessary to build a regional transportation system that is cost effective, located close to affordable housing and that connects residents to job centers resulting in a region more amenable to innovative industries.

How was the effort financed?

 The U.S. Department of Transportation contributed dollars to the project. Further, DOT provided an extra level of local flexibility by restructured funding formulas so as to ensure the addition of light rail stations in underserved minority neighborhoods along the proposed route. In addition to local government dollars, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative (CCFC) was instrumental in supporting corridor-wide plans and strategies to address multisector benefits. The pool of 13 national and local foundations expects to invest $20 million in the corridor over 10 years. Of special note is the $4 million business loan fund that provided assistance to over 200 small businesses that suffered economic losses during construction of the light rail line.

Other Details

The light rail line began operations during June of 2014. The service provides cost effective transportation both for downtown business and job creation centers and for neighborhoods with less commercial diversity and greater proportions of poverty. Beyond connecting residents to jobs in both cities and in the region, the light rail line continues to strengthen the appeal downtown, mixed-use and mixed-income living in these communities.  

In short, the new light rail line has led to an increased number of affordable homes nearby, protection and rehabilitation of some existing homes, new arts and cultural offerings, and the preservation of a vital center-city retail sector that reflects the ethnic diversity of the communities along the rail line.


 NLC has prepared a longer, multi-page case study on the development of the Twin Cities Central Line Corridor Project containing more detailed information.