Met Council Unveils New Route Details for Bottineau Blue Line
The Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County unveiled new route designs for the Bottineau Blue Line LRT extension this week.
The rail line aims to connect Target Field in Minneapolis with the northwest Minneapolis suburbs, terminating in Brooklyn Park near the Target corporate campus.
Without formally accepted designs, the project cannot move ahead to engineering and eventual construction phases.
“I also think it’s really important to start to pick the route,” said Jeff Lunde, Hennepin County Commissioner and a longtime supporter of the BLRT project. Lunde is a former mayor of Brooklyn Park.
“Let people do or don’t,” he said. “And that also lets people have some clarity about, am I going to be affected?. Yes, or no, I’m not. We still have lots of other questions but I do think that does help.”
In the latest designs, the track runs on streets east of I-94 through north Minneapolis before crossing the highway on a new bridge at 21st Avenue. The tracks later connect with West Broadway and head north into Robbinsdale.
Previously, project officials had been considering running track on Lyndale Avenue and West Broadway. Detractors questioned those plans.
“I can certainly say I’ve certainly heard hundreds of times, don’t build this on Lyndale,” said Dan Soler, senior program administrator for Hennepin County.
The plans were revealed to the Blue Line Corridor Management Committee.
The committee consists of elected representatives, residents and business owners from along the proposed rail line.
Residents, businesses and city officials along the line still have concerns about displacement and gentrification due to construction.
“I’m very aware of displacement,” said Hollies Winston, Mayor of Brooklyn Park. “There has been continuous lack of investment in [the northwest suburbs] for a very long time, which has created many of the disparities that people see.”
K.B. Brown, a business owner, told the committee that north Minneapolis is in serious need of investment.
“North Minneapolis has been neglected for decades,” he said. “We’re being told anti-displacement is there, but we’re not seeing anything happening with it.”
While the suburbs tend get significant funding from large projects, north Minneapolis is often left “holding the bag, fighting each other for crumbs,” Brown said.
Winston responded, saying there are significant areas of poverty in Brooklyn Park.
“Just because north Minneapolis has dealt with it’s fair share of issues, [does] not mean that there are pockets of Brooklyn Park which have not been overlooked. Or Crystal, or Robbinsdale, or other areas that are not equally concerned about these issues,” Winston said.
Upcoming Blue Line Decisions
The Met Council’s goal is to open the Blue Line between 2028 and 2030.
Coming in September, the Blue Line Corridor Management Committee will be asked to approve a resolution confirming the track alignment, road layouts near the track and the locations for proposed stations.
If approved, the resolution would guide the preparation of documents for the Federal Transit Administration.
For the project to move forward, cities along the proposed rail line would have to give approval through a process called municipal consent.
The project office expects to ask cities for municipal consent in July 2024.
Previous estimates put the cost of the project at approximately $1.5 billion.
For years, the majority of the track for the north-south Bottineau LRT line was proposed to run in freight-rail right-of-way near Bottineau Boulevard.
However, BNSF Railways refused to negotiate with Hennepin County and the Met Council.
In 2020, the project office began redesigning the line outside of the freight rail corridor.