Light rail designers move to next phase
If light rail gets the funding to get moving, Brooklyn Park will one day have five light rail stations. The most of any city along the proposed 13-mile route from Minneapolis. For residents, it's all in the details of what will be built in their neighborhood.

The design of the Bottineau Light Rail line will be nearly compete by the end of the year. Meanwhile, supporters are still working on the state and federal funding that's needed to build the line.

In Brooklyn Park Thursday, it was the last of five public meetings to review plans that are 60 percent finished. There was also an unveiling of how one neighborhood will be transformed.

"I hope they will take away a sense of excitement that the train is becoming more real and get excited about the design and the potential," said Brooklyn Park's LRT specialist Jennifer Jordan.

Brooklyn Park residents are finally able to see what planners call the streetscape design along West Broadway, which will get a total makeover.

"We have an opportunity to put in more trees, enhanced landscaping, better pedestrian lighting, street furniture, receptacles for recycling and trash to really create a cohesive design element along the corridor," Jordan said.

State funding not likely

While local planning is moving ahead, state and federal funding is still unresolved. Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat is a strong supporter of light rail and says the project is struggling to get the last 10 percent of county funding. 

He says everything is going well locally.

"People are excited about it. They're looking at station area planning. They're ready for a new future," Opat said.

But he says nailing down the final funding hasn't been easy with opponents in the legislature.

"One thing is clear, the state is not going to fund this project," Opat said. "They are going to empower us to fund it ourselves. That's a steady diet of what you get at the local level."

Meanwhile, dollars from the federal government would make up about half of the $1.5 billion Bottineau project. Officials are expected to apply by early next year for that grant. Despite federal cuts in this year's proposed budget for transit, Opat says it's doable.

"I think projects will move forward. Congress is going to have to do it. Our representatives will have to put a shoulder to the wheel here and move it along. There may be some changes, but I think we'll be OK on that."

Mike Johnson, reporting

April 13, 2017


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