WITH A large tent sheltering them from the cold, elected officials and civic leaders in Minneapolis broke ground for the Hiawatha Avenue light rail line on January 17. Led by Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, the ceremony was held at the site of the future maintenance depot just south of the city centre, with over 750 people present.

Costed at $675m, the 18·6 km line will connect central Minneapolis with the regional airport and the Mall of America shopping centre in Bloomington when it opens in 2004. An initial segment as far as Fort Snelling is expected to be ready for revenue service by 2003.

The following week, Minneapolis Metropolitan Council confirmed its base order for 18 low-floor LRVs from Bombardier Transportation at a cost of $56m, with options for another 24. The design will be developed at Bombardier’s LRV Centre of Expertise for America, in Mexico, utilising technology transferred from Europe. Bodyshells will be manufactured at Sahagún, with final assembly and static testing at Barre, Vermont (RG 9.00 p522).