Moving On: Blue Line Extension Light Rail Route to Change Without BNSF Railway
Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council announced Monday they would explore other options to create the Blue Line Extension light rail transit through the northwest suburbs without using BNSF Railway lines.
The announcement comes a little over a week after suburban mayors asked elected leaders to do more to advance the project, saying the power struggle and lack of action is an example of “systemic racism.”
The Blue Line Extension would serve some of the most diverse, transit-dependent communities in the Twin Cities. Negotiations between government entities and BNSF have long been at an impasse.
Our commitment to the METRO Blue Line Extension LRT project has not changed. We are frustrated and disappointed in this outcome, and we recognize the time and effort agency and community partners have invested in this project over many years. These investments will remain valuable. We look forward to working together to find ways to complete this project as soon as possible.” –Hennepin County and Met Council joint statement on 8/3/2020
The statement also said revisiting the project would allow the Blue Line Extension to serve even more people and destinations, while maintaining as much of the existing alignment as possible. There could be additional community conversations and discussions before the plan is officially changed.
Mayors Express Disappointment Abandoning Planned Route
Local mayors say they were notified Monday about Hennepin County and the Met Council’s decision to abandon the current planned Blue Line Extension alignment through the BNSF Railway corridor. The route is supposed to link downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park with stops in Golden Valley, Robbinsdale and Crystal.
“There are some concerns because this comes without discussion from the municipalities on the route. We’ve all done municipality consent agreeing to the alignment. So, this is kind of going away from that,” said Robbinsdale Mayor Regan Murphy. “I am disappointed. We’ve been pretty clear on what we would like to see on the Blue Line as far as the route, stations and all the planning we’ve done to date and we’ve asked for our senators and our governor to get involved and help and that has not been done.”
Mayor Jeff Lunde says he wasn’t surprised by the news, but still disappointed that local cities weren’t a part of the conversation.
“I’ve got messages from residents asking me questions and I don’t have any answers because I wasn’t in the room,” said Lunde. “The big thing is cities and communities were excluded from this process and it impacts us directly.”
State and local agencies have spent about $129 million planning the project that will now switch gears to a different route. Local mayors say that creates a new layer of uncertainty.
“What is means for Robbinsdale, I don’t know yet,” said Murphy. “I don’t know what the proposed realignment would mean. But, anything outside of the corridor that is currently discussed is going to mean some disruptions most likely to homes and businesses.”
The Met Council will meet with the Corridor Management Committee on Aug. 13 to discuss what happens next.