Preliminary studies and about 20 public meetings on the Bottineau Light Rail line have led to more questions and further studies, according to a Hennepin County staffer.
Brent Rusco, Bottineau Study Manager, led an Oct. 6 community meeting at the Harrison Community Center, which gave residents a chance to ask questions and get more information about the proposed rail line, which might have a North Minneapolis stop. Public input, he added, so far hasn’t pointed to one leading route preference. “Good questions have come up through the public involvement. The policy committee has asked us to do additional analysis.”
According to Metropolitan Council information, the Bottineau corridor parallels Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81) northwest out of Minneapolis. The Bottineau Transitway Alternatives Analysis Study is a transit planning effort (by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, HCRRA) to find solutions to current transportation problems and recommend a future action plan.
Transit needs to improve in the Bottineau corridor, according to the HCRRA, because population and employment along the corridor is growing, greater jobs-accessibility is needed, traffic congestion is expected to get worse through 2030. Limited transit options exist, and transit options for northbound commuters, especially, are also limited.
Rusco said he and other Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority staff have met with many Northside neighborhood organizations and agencies, including NRRC (Northside Residents Redevelopment Council), Hawthorne Area Community Council, Jordan Area Community Council, North Point Health and Wellness and the Willard Homewood Organization.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), once considered an option for the Bottineau Corridor, is out as of the Oct. 30 Policy Advisory Committee meeting. “They decided to no longer study bus transit,” Rusco said. “As the committee looked at the technical analysis alongside the input we’ve gotten, they decided to only retain light rail.”
And West Broadway likely won’t be seeing a light rail line in its future, either, he added. “Given the business’ dependency on street parking and a level of traffic of 20,000 vehicles a day, we decided we don’t have the space to get through that segment.”
The leading alternatives at this point, he said, are the Burlington Northern corridor and the Penn Avenue corridors.
North Side residents have voiced concerns about various proposed routes, citing such things as noise, vibrations, and the impact on specific routes, such as one proposed for Theodore Wirth Parkway.
Larry Hiscock, Harrison Neighborhood Association executive director, said that the routes neighbors discussed are Lowry to Lyndale avenues, West Broadway to Penn Avenue and Penn Avenue to Olson Memorial Highway. “Harrison doesn’t have a position, at this point, on any of the options,” he added. Hiscock said it’s still very early: the rail line is likely 10 years away. “This is the beginning of the process of engaging people. I’ve been getting calls already, though. People have strong arguments in favor of and against the Broadway and Penn lines, and for and against the Olson line.
“So far we’ve gotten the big picture and a lot of engineering details. There hasn’t been a chance for residents to talk to each other and develop questions for the engineering staff and designers. If Penn is the best route, for instance, how do we resolve the issue of housing?”
More study time
Rusco said that the policy committee is asking staff to look at the cost effectiveness of various routes, and compare benefits and costs. “There are federal criteria; we want to capture federal funding in this project. We’re not close to meeting those thresholds yet.”
In addition, the policy advisory committee has asked them to look at “what if” scenarios in terms of development along the corridor, Rusco said. “We are considering questions about an ultimate build out on Target North’s campus [in Brooklyn Park]. What if Crystal’s airport is developed? What if Minneapolis’ employment rate rises? We are looking to 2030. We also have to assume [the things that are in] the adopted comprehensive plans of each community along the corridor.”
The Bottineau corridor study website is www.bottransit.org; Rusco can be reached at 612-543-0579 or email@example.com.