Rochester City Council approves agreement for 20-year transit plan with Mayo Clinic

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(ABC 6 News) – At Monday night’s meeting, the Rochester City Council unanimously approved a 20-year-agreement with the Mayo Clinic for a new, fare-free rapid transit line for downtown.

The Link Rapid Transit System will be a 2.8 mile route, connecting 2nd St SW to 6th St downtown. For people looking to ride, it will not cost them any money.

"It’s free for all riders, all residents of the community, visitors, anyone not just Mayo employees," explained Deputy City Administrator, Cindy Steinhauser, at Monday night’s meeting.

The Link Rapid Transit project comes with a price tag of $143 million dollars. This newly-passed agreement requires Mayo Clinic to initially pay $3.5 million dollars towards this system. The other 80% of funding will come from state and federal grants.

"Both parties really came to the table recognizing that this is the largest infrastructure project in the city of Rochester and the commitment to making it the kind of project the community can benefit from," said Steinhauser.

Now that the plans are coming along, people in Rochester say they are excited to see it all come together.

"To meet my timeframes, to make my appointments, it would have sure been helpful," said Arnie Metz, who is a patient at Mayo Clinic. "All in all, it’s a very good deal for everybody."

Downtown Ambassador, Kent Thomas, echoed the same thought.

"It’s a great idea, especially with the winter coming up, so people will be able to get on the bus and be safe. They don’t have to worry about ‘oh how much do I have to pay’ but if a bus they know about is free, they know they can get on there and be safe," said Thomas.

Another part of the plan is creating a "Transit Village" located at the west end of the route. This will include a transit station, public plaza, restrooms and parking.

"Even just those little examples of efficiency and getting people quickly to downtown and having access to all of our other routes is really exciting," said Rochester City Council president, Brooke Carlson.

While it the project is one step closer, it is not yet a done deal. The city still needs $84 million in federal funding to make the project happen. If finalized, construction will begin in 2024.