Oct. 6: Next chance to influence light rail

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Penn Avenue Resident Charles Caldwell said, “this is the same meeting as seven months ago, just new people, but saying the same thing.” The Northside Transportation Network Sept. 22 recapped the results of early September open houses which gathered comments on several alignment alternatives for Bottineau Transitway.

With a recommendation on alignment due Nov. 14, there’s a meeting Oct. 6, 6-8 p.m. at UROC, 2001 Plymouth Ave. N. to discuss the various “D2” alignments only. Brent Rusco, Hennepin County’s lead contact person on the project, explained that they have to limit the number of options to “scope” to two, a “D1” using the existing BNSF railroad to the west of the city and then heading east into Downtown Minneapolis on the median of Olson Highway, or a “D2” which affects the Broadway and Penn area going down Penn or Oliver.

Raymond Dehn, facilitating the meeting, said, “We are about to come to a bottleneck.” NTN’s findings are advisory, and will be passed on to another advisory group, “which has only seven of 32 members having direct connections to the North Side.” Their recommendation will go to Hennepin County decision-makers who nonetheless have to get the agreement of Metropolitan Council members who then make the case to the federal government which would pay for half of the project. It’s about a billion dollar deal.

Scoping refers to all the technical measurements and “what-if” scenarios to be tested such as noise, effect on wetlands, vibration.

Organizers and some of the participants, themselves wearied by the number of steps, encouraged the others to keep showing up and keep getting educated on the process, “that way you’re more likely to get the results you want.” One said, “If you go away they will do business as usual. Ray and the politicians have to see that you’re involved and intelligent. Don’t go away or you’ll be wiped out. Transit is survival.”

For the PowerPoint from the Sept. 22 meeting, go to www.northsidetransit.org.

Light rail alignment: Pros and cons 

Geoff Maas, GIS Manager and Community Planner for Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, provided this list of pro/con comments assembled from previous meetings, the early September open houses and the Sept. 22 meeting:

D1: SKIRTS NORTH MINNEAPOLIS

D1 Alignment PROS:

  • Minimal impact to private property (eminent domain)
  • Lower cost than D2 alignments
  • No loss of street parking
  • No cut-offs of east/west streets
  • No changes to neighborhood traffic
  • Two stops on Olson Highway

D1 Alignment CONS:

  • Less immediate access to LRT for North Minneapolis residents/neighborhoods
  • Would require some bus route modification/re-routing
  • Less development potential
  • Perception that D1 only serves the suburban communities
  • Aesthetic/environmental impacts to Theodore Wirth Park

D2: THROUGH NORTH MINNEAPOLIS

D2 Alignment PROS:

  • Proximity of stops to residents
  • Immediacy of the connectivity of North Minneapolis to rest of LRT/city and region
  • Stops provide opportunity for economic development, transit-oriented development
  • Provides ‘launch pad’ for new community investment
  • Enhancement of the profile and perception of North Minneapolis

D2 Alignment CONS:

  • Private property takings (eminent domain)
  • Significant change to the physical structure of the neighborhood (slices North Minneapolis in half)
  • Loss of on-street parking on Penn Avenue (D2[a]); loss of traffic on Oliver (D2[b])
  • Impact to property values adjacent to the LRT
  • Public safety concerns: Tracks, re-routing of emergency services
  • Aesthetic concerns: Noise/lights, vibration, frequency of trains
  • Project costs more than D1
  • Gentrification potential