New track sections have been staged in Bloomington, where Blue Line improvements will be made over the next five weeks.
Light rail vehicles have traveled up and down the METRO Blue Line more than 1 million times since it opened in 2004. Wear and tear from all those trips is now being addressed through the largest construction project in the light rail line’s history.
Nearly a half-mile worth of worn track will be replaced, and new signal equipment – the lights, wires and other equipment that guide train movements – will be installed through the $15 million effort.
To allow for construction, replacement buses are operating between the Mall of America and Terminal 2-Humphrey stations. Light rail service will resume when construction is complete.
“This is important for the Blue Line’s next 40 years,” said Ryan Heath, a Metro Transit engineer who is overseeing the project. “We’re looking out literally decades with an eye toward improving the reliability and maintainability of our system.”
The updates will also bring safety enhancements and allow trains to switch tracks and turn around near the 30th Avenue Station, providing more opportunity to keep trains moving if a section of track is taken out of service.
More than a month may seem like a long time for light rail service to be interrupted. But getting through all the planned activities, even with more than 100 people working around the clock, will be a challenge.
To replace track, sections of concrete must be removed and then put back. More than 1,000 pages of software codes and circuit plans are guiding signal improvements.
“We’re going to using every minute of those five weeks, and I mean every minute of it,” Heath said. “It’s going to be that intense.”
To help customers along their way, replacement buses will operate on a similar schedule as trains. For the first time ever, replacement buses will show up in the Trip Planner and NexTrip. Staff will also be on hand to help direct customers to replacement bus service.
Replacement buses will closely follow the Blue Line schedule but travel times will be slightly longer.
Due to road construction, replacement bus boarding locations are further removed from light rail stations than usual. View boarding locations here and look for signage at stations and stops.