The Metropolitan Council, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority are nearing an agreement to build a $6 million pedestrian bridge that would link the new stadium to the Downtown East light rail transit station.
Under the deal, the Met Council would pay the entire cost to build and maintain the bridge, which would pass over the light rail tracks at Fourth Street and Chicago Avenue. The construction cost is estimated between $5.5 million and $6 million.
The Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority will contribute a combined $300,000 annually in promotional revenue in exchange for naming rights and other restrictions on advertising on the platform.
The Met Council’s Transportation Committee signed off on the deal Monday night though some members thought the professional football team should pay more for the bridge. Council members Jennifer Munt, Cara Letofsky, Gail Dorfman and Edward Reynoso voted against the agreement.
The need for a pedestrian connection separated from LRT and automobile traffic is largely driven by the anticipated crowds near the stadium on game days, said Jim Harwood, project manager for Metro Transit.
The transit agency aims for a 40 percent mode-share or 26,000 passengers to take transit to the stadium for games. With two future LRT lines currently in development and special trains to be added for Vikings service, trains are expected to pass the intersection every two minutes on game days. During that same time, Metro Transit estimates 2,100 pedestrians will need to cross the tracks and intersection.
Earlier this year, the Met Council hired Eden Prairie-based EVS Engineering to design the project, which is now at the 50 percent design level. The final project will include wood, concrete and steel finishes, elevators and ramps for accessibility and snow-melt systems.
Council member Jennifer Munt, who represents the Minnetonka area, agreed that the pedestrian connection is needed for safety reasons but said the Vikings should be paying more because the project will mostly benefit the team’s fans. She pointed to other system priorities — like shelters with light and heat in the region’s poorest areas — as better uses of $6 million in Met Council funds.
Reynoso said the project should have been included in the initial state deal to contribute funding to the $1.06 billion stadium.
“For us to commit ourselves to another $6 million, to me it’s just the wrong direction,” said Reynoso, who represents cities in Anoka County.
Vikings representatives couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
The advertising deal is for the life of the agreement, which allows the Met Council to use land owned by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority for the project, according to Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. Both the authority and the Vikings would contribute more than $300,000 annually over time. Most of the promotional revenue is from the Vikings, which will contribute $250,000 annually. The parties will meet regularly to discuss the agreement, Lamb said.
The MSFA is also planning to spend an extra $2 million on plaza improvements at the station in a separate project, Harwood said.
The full Met Council is scheduled to consider the bridge agreement at its April 22 meeting. If approved, construction would start this summer and the project would be “substantially complete” by April 2016, Harwood said. The Vikings’ stadium project is set to be finished in time for the 2016 football season.