Robbinsdale Council: Light Rail Project Would Proceed Without City’s Consent
The Robbinsdale City Council has mixed feelings on the Bottineau Blue Line Extension light rail project after recent talks with project officials.
Several council members said they believe that the project will move forward with or without consent from local city councils.
“There’s kind of this illusion of, ‘hey, we want your feedback,'” said Robbinsdale City Council Member Regan Murphy. “You just said — ‘hey, this thing’s coming, it doesn’t matter’ — but you know, come to these meetings anyway.”
An engineer from the Blue Line project office met with the Robbinsdale City Council this week. During the meeting, Nick Landwer, engineering and design lead for the Blue Line project, addressed a list of concerns the city sent this spring.
The line is planned to connect Target Field in Minneapolis with Crystal, Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Park.
A large portion of the project is planned to run along County Road 81, also known as Bottineau Boulevard.
A previous design for the rail system had track running in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. freight corridor. After BNSF refused to negotiate with the project office, engineers redesigned the route to run down County Road 81.
Light Rail Questions from Robbinsdale
According to a count conducted mid-meeting by Robbinsdale Mayor Bill Blonigan, 48 people attended to express their opposition to the project.
Several speakers from a group calling itself “Stop Light Rail on 81” spoke against the project.
Blonigan asked for a show of hands supporting their sentiments. A majority of attendees in the council chambers raised their hands. After the group cheered several comments from the council, Blonigan asked that spectators hold their applause.
Meanwhile, concerns expressed in the letter from the city to the project office this spring were wide-ranging.
They included a request from the project office to disclose expected property impacts.
The city also questioned if a raised rail platform or elevated track would improve traffic flow through the city’s downtown area.
“We feel at-grade works the same as an elevated section,” Landwer said.
According to Landwer, traffic impacts caused by the line at intersections should be minimal.
“The delay was within seconds,” he said. “Four to ten seconds.”
The trains are set to run with stoplights and stop to allow emergency vehicles to pass through intersections, Landwer said.
Robbinsdale Council Opinions
The council offered mix opinions on the project.
“I feel that most if not all of what we presented in the letter has been addressed,” said Robbinsdale City Council member Mia Parisian.
Murphy and Blonigan said they still preferred the previous alignment in the BNSF corridor.
“Looking at this, I just, I can’t have a conversation with a resident and justify why this should happen,” Murphy said. “The alternative route, I could do that.”
Blonigan said he would prefer to see an elevated rail platform than track at-grade.
However, the project will likely go forward regardless of the council’s opinion, Blonigan said.
“Part of my job is to get what we can get so that it makes sense for people, and there some good things about light rail,” he said.
Robbinsdale City Council member Aaron Wagner, however, said he prefers the new alignment over the freight rail design.
“I am of the position of maybe an oddity but I prefer light rail [to bus rapid transit]” he said.