Light Rail Project Leaders Work to Ease Concerns
Light Rail Trains Traveling Down County Road 81 Would Require Street, Bridge Reconstruction
Every day, thousands of cars travel up and down County Road 81 (Bottineau Boulevard) in Crystal.
The road has three lanes of traffic going in both directions to accommodate those vehicles. But if the Metro Blue Line Extension is approved, the train would run right down the center of the road, possibly reducing the number of lanes from six to four.
“Our specific, most significant concerns are the traffic impacts of reducing Bottineau Boulevard from six lanes to four,” said John Sutter, Crystal’s community development director. “And I would say, city staff is skeptical but open-minded about that and the council is divided about that.”
Reducing the number of traffic lanes was one of the details discussed on June 29 when officials from Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council led a bus tour of the light rail route.
It’s a route they formally approved last month, which could include building a new interchange in Crystal at Bass Lake Road and County Road 81, reconstructing the inside lanes of the bridge that goes over the Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks, and working with MnDOT to reconstruct the bridge that goes over Highway 100.
Achieving municipal consent
News of the route was met with opposition from leaders in Crystal and Robbinsdale. That’s significant because the project likely needs municipal consent from all the cities along the route to proceed.
“We don’t think about it as, what if we don’t get municipal consent,” said Dan Soler, Hennepin County’s senior program administrator. “We think about it more of, what are the design impacts, the design changes, the design aspects that we have to do to get a city in a place where they are comfortable with municipal consent?”
In Robbinsdale, the number of lanes would stay as-is, but city officials have voiced their displeasure about having the train run down the center of County Road 81 to begin with.
For now, project leaders are now working to determine the location of the Robbinsdale LRT station, and whether to build a park and ride lot next to Elim Lutheran Church so that existing in the city businesses don’t lose parking.
“So how do we incorporate the LRT into that downtown to preserve the vision of what Robbinsdale is today,” Soler said to a crowd during a stop in Robbinsdale. “That’s part of our goal and mission.”
It’s a mission they have a year to figure out before the big vote on municipal consent.