Reboot of Bottineau Blue Line LRT would better serve north Minneapolis

Reboot of Bottineau Blue Line LRT would better serve north Minneapolis

New route proposals for the Bottineau Blue Line light-rail extension would better serve north Minneapolis while leaving out Golden Valley.

Options for the Twin Cities’ fourth light-rail project were released Thursday after the Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County abandoned a long-established alignment last August when critical right of way could not be secured.

“There was a lot of disappointment and concern that [regrouping] set us back, but we’ve made a wonderful pivot,” said Met Council Chairman Charlie Zelle. “This project is moving forward. It will provide tremendous value to north Minneapolis.”

The Bottineau line was supposed to link downtown Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park through Golden Valley, Robbinsdale and Crystal, with passenger service beginning in 2024. The line is an extension of the existing Blue Line, which connects downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America.

The original Bottineau route, which largely bypassed the most-populated and transit-dependent areas of north Minneapolis, was set aside after the council failed to reach an agreement to share 8 miles of the 13-mile route owned by BNSF Railway.

The proposed new routes mostly retain the northern stretch of the original alignment, but they offer different options through north Minneapolis. Both of the main route options also would serve North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale.

The north and south endpoints — Brooklyn Park and Target Field — would remain the same. But Golden Valley would no longer be served by the train.

“Are we pleased? No,” said Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris. But he said he understands the decision to reroute through north Minneapolis and remains committed “to advancing transportation opportunities within the region.”

One of the options would send light-rail trains down Lowry Avenue to Washington Avenue and through the North Loop to Target Field. The other possible route, along West Broadway, would offer four different ways to connect with Target Field, including Lyndale Avenue and along Interstate 94. At least 75 feet is needed to accommodate light-rail trains traveling at grade, so some city streets are not a good fit, according to Metro Transit.

The prospect of north Minneapolis residents being displaced to make way for light rail, and even afterward due to possible gentrification, concerned some supporters.

Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando, who represents the city’s North Side, says she worries whether some residents will be able to afford to stay in their homes once light rail comes to the neighborhood. At the same time, she said the project could have a transformative effect on the area.

The council and the county will spend the rest of the year soliciting input from community and business members and others before settling on a final route. Cities along the line may have to approve the project as well.

The new alignment also will have to undergo an environmental review and engineering work. There is no set date for when passenger service would begin.

So far, at least $202 million has been spent on the project. It’s unclear how much the new alignment will cost taxpayers; the previous price tag for the line was $1.5 billion.

The new light-rail alignment in north Minneapolis would complement the existing C line rapid-bus service linking downtown Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, largely running along Penn Avenue.

Another rapid-bus project, the $75 million D line, is planned to serve the North Side along Emerson and Fremont avenues with service beginning in late 2022.

Noted Zelle: “While these potential routes are a good first step for seeing this project to completion, much work remains.”

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

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