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Project Profile: Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (METRO Blue Line)

Hiawatha Light Rail Transit (METRO Blue Line)

photo credit: Meet Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Project Sponsor / Borrower

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)

Metropolitan Council

Program Areas

Alternative Project DeliveryValue Capture

Value Capture Techniques Sales Tax Districts

Light Rail Transit


The METRO Hiawatha Line (now known as the Blue Line) began partial service in June 2004 and opened fully in December 2004. It links downtown Minneapolis and the Target Field Station, which opened in 2009, with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America. (The American Boulevard Station in Bloomington also opened in 2009.) The corridor is 12 miles in length, with 19 stations and 27 light rail vehicles manufactured by Bombardier. Twelve additional vehicles manufactured by Siemens were acquired in conjunction with the Green Line expansion from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul that opened in 2014.

The Hiawatha Line project utilized two separate design-build contracts: one for light rail vehicles, and one to place rail, signal, and communication equipment along the alignment.

Although design-build contracts were used for most of the LRT route, Metropolitan Airport Commission officials opted for a design-bid-build procurement for the two 7,400-foot airport tunnels underneath MSP International. This decision was based on the risk of tunneling below two runways and building two underground stations.

In 2013, METRO Red Line bus rapid transit service began from the southern terminus of the Blue Line at the Mall of America south to Apple Valley. A 13-mile Blue Line extension northwest to Brooklyn Park is planned to begin construction in 2018 and open in 2021.


$715.3 million

Funding Sources

Federal Grants

  • FTA Section 5309 New Starts - $334.3 million
  • Federal Transit Capital Grant - $39.9 million
  • Federal Surface Transportation Program and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program - $49.8 million

State Grants

  • State of Minnesota - $100.0 million
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation - $20.1 million

Local Grants

  • Hennepin County - $84.2 million
  • Metropolitan Airports Commission Federal, State, and Local grants - $87.0 million
Project Delivery / Contract Method

2 Design-build procurements

1 Design-bid-build procurement

Private Partner


  • LRT vehicles - Bombardier
  • Rail/Systems - Granite Construction Inc. with Parsons Transportation Group, Maple Grove, C.S. McCrossen and Edwards and Kelcey
Project Advisors / Consultants

Airport Tunnel

  • Design - HNTB
  • Construction - Joint venture of Obayashi Corporation and Johnson Brothers Corporation


Duration / Status

Partial opening June 2004; full revenue service December 2004; two additional stations 2009

Financial Status


  • Combination of multiple federal funding sources and multiple state and local match sources.
  • Innovative mix of design-build and design-bid-build procurements.
Related Links / Articles

Fact Sheet

Metro Transit

Metropolitan Council


Mary Bogie
Chief Financial Officer
Metropolitan Council
Tel: (651) 602-1359

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