Light Rail Supporters Look to Jump-Start Stalled Blue Line Project
In 2017, the Metropolitan Council released an updated, virtual flyover video, showing the route of the proposed Metro Blue Line extension.
Today, cities along that route are still waiting for the video to become a reality.
“On this project, nine people have passed away on the Community Advisory Committee,” said Robbinsdale City Council Member George Selman. “That’s how long this has taken. It’s insane.”
Selman has served on the Community Advisory Committee, a group of light rail stakeholders, since its inception.
“It’s very frustrating,” Selman said of the stalled project. “A lot of people have been working on this for a very long time, and we have all the funding aligned. We’ve got all the communities completely in agreement up and down the corridor.”
But what they don’t have is cooperation from BNSF Railway.
Blue Line Project Lacks BNSF Blessing
The plan calls for the train to operate alongside eight miles of right-of-way owned by BNSF, but the railroad claims the light rail line “raises safety concerns.”
“I’m disappointed in the railroad,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat. “They certainly began as partners and acted like that for more than a decade, and all of a sudden they seem completely unwilling to be reasonable.”
One reason BNSF may have had a change of heart has to do with a decision by Hennepin County in 2015. Canadian Pacific wanted to run its trains through Crystal on BNSF track, but Hennepin County blocked the project by buying a piece of land the railroads would have needed.
Commissioner Opat says the county blocked the proposal because the plan would have cut off emergency vehicles in Robbinsdale and Crystal.
“There was no alternative there,” Opat said. “It was a bad plan by the railroad. We stopped it. And if there’s some kind of ridiculous carrying cost that’s going on now, that’s too bad.”
Selman agreed with that sentiment.
“I’m tired of waiting for this,” Selman said. “I’m tired of watching people waste thousands of hours because somebody got crabby and took their bat and ball and went home.”
Now, Selman hopes people higher up in government can help reason with BNSF and resurrect the light rail project.
“We need the state government, including the governor, to get on board with this,” Selman said. “And if we need to have our federal representation help, we’ll do that too.”
Plans called for the 13-mile light rail line to be open by 2024. The Metropolitan Council has not provided any updates to that timeline.