As much as suburban residents may want to take light rail into the downtowns for jobs or recreation, planners are banking on there also being near-downtown residents eager to travel to the suburbs for the same reasons. North Minneapolis touches two such anticipated light-rail lines, Southwest and Bottineau.
“It may seem like we’re prolonging the agony, re-treading, plowing over old ground,” said Brent Rusco, the guy in charge of the Bottineau Transitway planning process. But every time, new information comes up as people have had more time to think, or new people attend a meeting, he said.
As the most recent example of what light rail can do to or for a series of neighborhoods, the Central Corridor, inches toward completion, observers may extract valuable lessons or become more confident of their beliefs.
For Bottineau, the light rail line that would come into North Minneapolis near North Memorial Medical Center and either go through Wirth Park or somewhere along Penn Avenue N or an adjacent street, there are three different process goals going on approximately simultaneously. Those are environmental review, attempting to select a locally-preferred alternative, and satisfying Federal Transit Administration evaluation criteria in order to get half the money to pay for the line.
Residents and other stakeholders, here are the next opportunities to get familiar with what’s going on, and at the open houses, to voice questions, concerns and preferences:
- Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) Meeting Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2-3:30 p.m., Brooklyn Park City Hall, 5200 85th Ave. N.
- Scoping Open House #1 Monday, Jan. 23, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Theodore Wirth Park Chalet, 1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy.
- Scoping Open House #2 Tuesday, Jan. 24, 6-8 p.m., Brooklyn Park City Hall.
- Scoping Open House #3 Wednesday, Jan. 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center (UROC) Facility, Plymouth and Penn avenues North.
- Scoping Open House #4 Tuesday, Jan. 31, 6-8 p.m., Robbinsdale City Hall, 4100 Lakeview Ave. N.
- Community Advisory Committee (CAC) Meeting Thursday, Feb. 9, 2-3:30 p.m., Brooklyn Park City Hall.
Those who’ve been loosely following the process may wonder “so which D2 alternative was chosen?” (Referring to which of the on-or-near Penn Avenue alignments did the community favor. This was in order to contrast just one such alternative against the “D1” alternative which would share Burlington Northern railroad right of way through a non-populated area).
“From community input in October, and a Survey Monkey, and comment cards at meetings, none of them met the needs of the community,” Rusco said. There was even a petition by a group of residents against any D2 alignment. The county worked with Northside Transportation Network “and through our technical committee,” to bring a recommendation to the PAC (Policy Advisory Committee), a group of elected officials, resident and business representatives.
According to Rusco, the PAC voted on “D2C” for purposes of the draft Environmental Impact Statement. “But we put all three (D2 permutations) into the scoping document.”
For people attending the open houses, it would not be too late, for example, to ask “why not just put it down West Broadway?” though Rusco and Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein reiterated in interviews why that route was dropped early on. They said the business community would lose street parking, and the “longer street running” would mean slower speed, therefore lower ridership, and less likelihood of getting chosen for federal funding needed.
Stenglein has said the 2011 tornado lingered over Penn Avenue, perhaps signaling where the pathway should be. Those who are protesting probably won’t be living there in three years, either way, he said in an interview. “We have to think of the broader community. Yeah, it will slice it up” if it goes along Penn or Oliver. He said it would be a herculean task to work with the railroad on the other option. In either option, the train would eventually travel along Olson Highway and meet up with the Exchange in downtown Minneapolis near Target Field where it would meet other rail lines, giving train access to much more of the metropolitan area.
Trains are only part of the transit picture. Rusco said there’s a study out on arterial buses, with recommendations for improving service, having faster, more frequent buses.
More information on Bottineau Transit is available at www.bottineautransitway.org a newly redesigned website with the most recent information and meetings easier to find. “The site gets a fair amount of use. We’re upgrading to be more social media friendly,” Rusco said. “We listened to the criticisms of the last site, and have put up front the things people want.”