North Minneapolis turned out more people, by far, than other communities potentially affected by the projected Bottineau transit corridor, in the latest round of local talks. Thirty-six attended June 28 at Urban Research Outreach/Engagement Center, out of 96 total in six locations near the various alternatives for the line.
While “scoping” has started toward a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), no decisions have been made about which route options will be favored, said Brent Rusco, in charge of the process for Hennepin County. Scoping means taking various physical/environmental measurements to help analyze potential impacts.
At the far north end, the Bottineau line would either start at 97th Ave. N. along West Broadway Avenue in Brooklyn Park, Alternative B; or Elm Creek Boulevard near Hemlock Lane in Maple Grove, Alternative A. All alignments would follow Highway 81 (Bottineau Boulevard) from just north of I94-694.
As it approaches the North Memorial Medical Center area, the route can either include North Memorial and stops at Broadway/ Penn and Penn/Plymouth (D2 Alignment); or bypass all of these by following an existing freight rail line through relative wilderness in Golden Valley (D1 Alternative).
In all scenarios, the lines eventually follow Highway 55 to The Interchange, a yet-to-be-built connection with other existing and proposed light rail and possibly heavy rail lines.
Within the “D2” area, several possible alternatives are being considered. One calls for light rail transit and a southbound lane of car traffic on Penn, and making Oliver a one-way northbound. Under this scenario, no homes would be taken.
Another scenario would not run on Penn, but on Oliver, with transit and bike paths but no cars. A third scenario would use Penn for transit, cars, and pedestrians, requiring removing homes on one side. Further discussion and measurement may produce other ideas.
The summer meetings gathered questions and identified areas that the officials may not have thought of, to address in the scoping, taking various measurements to help cost out the project, mitigate negative impacts, and choose the locally preferred alternative. “Noise will be a big one,” Rusco said. And for the route through Golden Valley, wetlands could be affected whereas not in the already-built environment.
Issues identified, as summarized in a county report: Pedestrian considerations, frequency of service/station access, personal safety, impacts to area bus service, displacement—particularly in tornado damaged areas, economic development potential, job accessibility (particularly reverse commute), local job incentives, public art at the stations, and impacts during construction.
Rusco said the analysis would involve looking at successful stations elsewhere in the country, figuring out what makes them successful, and matching the characteristics with similar proposed stops on the Bottineau line.
The scoping process will continue through January of 2012, but the county is refining all the concepts and plans more public review meetings late this year toward that locally preferred alternative. At the end of 2012, after looking in great detail at the impacts of the locally preferred alternative and other possibilities, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be reviewed and either confirm the chosen route or defend some modification or other choice. While other local transitways have focused on light rail, bus rapid transit is also being considered for this route.
This process lives at Hennepin County now, but eventually will go to the Metropolitan Council. The Federal Transit Administration, which would fund a large portion of the project, is also involved throughout.
Locally, the Northside Transportation Network keeps people informed and coming to meetings. Their website, www.northsidetransit.org has a lot of background materials. Contact person: Vanessa Freeman at 612-275-1621.
The county project website is www.bottineautransitway.org, Brent Rusco is at 612-543-0579, email Bottineau@co.hennepin.mn.us.