Sunday, April 28, 2013

Welcome to Saint Paul

Between the dust and noise and stress of building a rail line, there are a handful of days that stick out as milestones. Days when your heart beats fast and you feel overcome with pride for this community. For me those days are (in no particular order) the rail pull, the FFGA signing, the first curbs and then the first asphalt, the first trees to be planted, the opening of the Depot, the first LRV delivered. And today we add one more: the first light rail train on Saint Paul tracks.

I woke up anxious this morning, threw on running shoes and went up to Dunns. I sat there with my bagel and tea, looking west. A train car was on its way, not of its own power (the catenary wires aren't all up yet), but pulled by a fatty truck down the tracks from the Hiawatha rail facility to Lowertown. I waited for a half hour, refreshing twitter every couple minutes. Where is it? Did everyone at the U really sleep through this?

And then a huge clue. A woman walks out to the median of University, sporting a big ole' telephoto lens, and just camps out, looking west.

I ran out the door and walked towards Bedford Street, running into a friend and his son. We walked west, looking down the hill towards Stadium Village. All of the sudden, the train turned onto University at 29th, not at the slow walking pace we expected, but at a pretty fast clip. We jogged back toward Saint Paul. It stopped at the border and honked at us, with happy rail staff on board.

After crossing Berry Street, 206 pulled into the eastbound Westgate platform and the rail workers jumped off. One guy said to me, "I'm dying for a cup of coffee!" as they filed into Dunn Brothers. The question has been: will light rail bring customers? The answer is already yes.

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