by Ethan Hiedeman
On Sunday, September 22nd, nearly 100 Sierra Club members, volunteers and transit enthusiasts strapped on their bike helmets for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s 18th Annual Bike Tour. The theme of this year’s “conference on wheels” was the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit project (SWLRT), which would improve transit in the southwestern metro.
The 21-mile route took bikers along the proposed SWLRT route from St. Louis Park north to Target Field before winding back south through the Chain of Lakes and Hopkins. Under clear blue skies, riders were invited to stop at points of interest along the route and listen to knowledgeable speakers explain why exactly SWLRT is a good thing for the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs.
In addition to the environmental benefits that come with public transit, the SWLRT will bring with it “tremendous opportunities for economic development,” according to Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, a speaker at the tour. The Southwest Corridor that the project would service is already on track to add 60,000 jobs by 2030, a number that the SWLRT would only increase.
The SWLRT is currently in the Project Development phase, which is likely to take about two years. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in 2015, not a minute too soon for southwest metro residents and workers looking for an efficient and affordable transit option. As fun as it was to ride the future route Sunday morning, I can’t wait for the day when light rail tracks abut the bike trails and add another green transit option for commuters and other travellers.
It was obvious Sunday that the Twin Cities already offer many ways to get out from behind the wheel – the 21-mile round-trip tour took place almost exclusively on dedicated bike trails – but there is much more that can and needs to be done to move our beautiful metro area and state beyond fossil fuels. The SWLRT would be a big step in the right direction – or rather, a big rotation of the bike wheel.
Thanks to the many volunteers who made the day such a success!
Ethan Hiedeman is a Social Media and Blog Writer Intern with the North Star Chapter. He is a graduate of St. Olaf College in environmental studies and political science and hails from Hastings, MN. Ethan loves to write and aspires to tell the important stories of the environmental movement and how people interact with their planet.