North Minneapolis may not benefit as much as hoped from the future Bottineau light rail, but maybe we’ll get a better bus system or street cars out of the deal: That’s what some participants at a May 31 update meeting concluded. Others were relieved.
That all changed June 19 when City Council in Golden Valley, which would have had to shoulder one portion of the route, voted 3-2 to defeat the proposed motion for support. Golden Valley officials say they understand that if any of the cities would not endorse the proposed “locally preferred alternative,” Hennepin County and ultimately the Metropolitan Council would have a hard time adopting it into their master plan for transit; it would not receive federal funding even for preliminary design if all cities didn’t sign on.
The PAC, Policy Advisory Committee, selected a route for the planned Bottineau light rail which would skirt North Minneapolis (D-1) rather than coming through the Penn and Broadway area (D-2). “If it would have been easy, it would have happened a year and a half ago,” Ray Dehn, the Urban League’s representative on the PAC, the Policy Advisory Committee, reported to the Northside Transportation Network May 31.
“I don’t think any of us thought it would be 50-50,” Dehn said, describing divided opinions on that section of the route. The City of Minneapolis favored the prevailing route, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board opposed it though their assent is not required. The route, while following the existing Burlington Northern Rail corridor, could impact park land. Residents attending meetings were about equally divided.
Shep Harris, Golden Valley mayor and one of the supporting votes June 19 (Michael Freiberg the other), told the Golden Valley council he believes “D-2 is the best option for North Minneapolis, but there is lack of political will in that neighborhood. There is concern about dividing an African American community,” akin to what I-94 did to the Rondo neighborhood. “I have to respect that, I can’t fathom what it’s like to live on the North Side, and be recovering from the tornado. I don’t think D-1 will work,” but voting for it is the only way to get it studied.
A Golden Valley council work group with city staff came up with a laundry list of conditions on their support, incorporated into the motion; long term care for sidewalks, measurements of noise and other pollution, further study on retaining walls, seeking funding for improvements to neighboring houses, reduction of property taxes for those affected, and park and ride options.
Paula Pentel, Joanie Clausen, and DeDe Scanlon voted no. It’s not clear whether this stops the process, more likely it invites further negotiation, observers say.
Dehn and Vicki Moore, who is also on the PAC, told the May 31 meeting that the PAC’s decision hinged on the effect on property and those living adjacent to the route, North Minneapolis residents who would have had their front yards cut off, the loading docks at the (North Memorial) hospital, and housing in Robbinsdale where the population is dense. Moore said Metro Transit will be looking at changes in the next five to six years for improving bus service, “we need to be at the table so as not to be on the menu.”
Minneapolis City leaders, before agreeing to the D-1 alternative, were trying to negotiate for better transit connections, said Peter Wagenius, aide to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. They came out with an agreement for a joint city-county application for an alternatives analysis for a streetcar on West Broadway. There was also talk of a circulator bus to bring people to the light rail.
Other notes from May 31: Given the national political climate, it was not disputed when the statement was made, “Bottineau LRT will be the last we’ll see in 40 years.” There was talk about getting the work force ready for jobs building and planning for the line. And David Kang from Asian Media Access mentioned work they are doing with a Corridors of Opportunity grant to engage Asians in the process.
Joan Vanhala from the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability said, “make sure you get something out of it.” On the Central Corridor rail line, neighbors in what remains of Rondo agitated and got three additional stations, at Victoria, Hamline and Western.