Residents Crowd Robbinsdale Council Meeting To Protest Light Rail Route
Residents from Robbinsdale and beyond came out in droves Tuesday night to voice opposition to plans for a light rail route connecting Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park.
The current Blue Line Extension alignment would start at Target Field in Minneapolis and end in Brooklyn Park at Target’s Northern Campus. The route would also put tracks down the middle of County Road 81 through Robbinsdale and Crystal. The new alignment came forward after BNSF Railway wouldn’t budge on having light rail trains in its freight corridor, effectively scrapping years of planning.
But the current plans, which also have taken years to come together, are not satisfying the dozens of residents and business owners who came out to speak.
“We feel there are better alternatives to improve transit like state-of-the-art bus rapid transit that will not destroy the character of Robbinsdale,” said Karen Shull, founder and co-chair of Stop Light Rail on 81.
The Robbinsdale residents who spoke say they weren’t against light rail in general, but against this particular route which they believe will split Robbinsdale in half.
“In my mind, it will destroy the small-town feel that Robbinsdale has successfully developed over the years and one of the reasons I built my home here back in 2009,” said Bob Papousek, who lives along County Road 81.
Nearly 100 people showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to show opposition to the plans. Most were from Robbinsdale, but several came from Crystal and Minneapolis.
“Whatever impacts Robbinsdale equally impacts Crystal,” said Tom Slupske, a Crystal resident who opposes the current route.
Mary Pattock, who lives in Minneapolis, showed up to cite examples of how the Metropolitan Council wouldn’t listen to concerns that she said proved to be valid with other light rail lines.
“It is profoundly disillusioning and disappointing, but I must tell you, that you must not trust the Met Council,” said Pattock, who sits on a task force to reform the Metropolitan Council.
Kristel Porter, who represents the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition in north Minneapolis, said the current route would decimate minority-owned business that the line is supposed to help.
“Many of the businesses would not survive a project of this magnitude,” said Porter, referring to the construction impact. “We’ve been asking for bus rapid transit for a very long time. Unfortunately, for some reason, the Met Council continues to spin this as something they are doing for us.”
Others pointed out how it seems wasteful to rip up County Road 81 when it was redesigned only a few years ago.
“Based on the reconstruction of Bottineau Boulevard and the new construction by North Memorial, it seems ridiculous to build again and destroy a roadway that was built to improve the flow of traffic and instead replace it with permanent tracks,” said Robbinsdale resident Elizabeth Ford.
‘We Cannot Stop Them’
After residents got done speaking, Robbinsdale City Council members had their turn.
Robbinsdale City Council member Regan Murphy, who represents Ward 2, the district likely most impacted by the route, stated his opposition.
“The more and more people I talk to at different events are questioning this route, the data behind it and the numerous sort of things that were brought up tonight,” said Murphy.
Council members Mia Parisian and Aaron Wagner both were elected after expressing support for the light rail project.
“If they don’t know my position that’s not helpful to anybody,” said Wagner addressing the crowd.
While in favor of the plans, Wagner said the route must not disrupt the city’s walkability and safety for bicyclists. Wagner also said he believes the current route will help employees commute to North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale.
Robbinsdale Mayor Bill Blonigan says he wants to see numbers from the Met Council that explains how the current light rail route would perform better than bus rapid transit.
Blonigan pointed out that with $210 million already spent on study, he believes the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and the Met Council will push the project through, even if Robbinsdale votes no on municipal consent.
“We cannot stop them if they choose to vote beyond our municipal consent to do this,” said Blonigan.
If the project does proceed, as he predicts, Blonigan said he would argue for an elevated track in Robbinsdale over 41st and 42nd avenues.
“God bless you, if you can turn it around where the Southwest people couldn’t turn it around, I’m all for you,” Blonigan told the crowd.
Robbinsdale and other cities are expected to vote on the project either late this year or early next year.