Met Council hears concerns about Blue Line route in north Minneapolis and Crystal

A man talking
Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle speaks during a bus tour of the latest planned route of the Blue Line extension light rail from downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park. City and county officials heard speakers from nearby businesses and community groups.
Peter Cox | MPR News

The newest Twin Cities light rail line is in the early planning stages, but the route of the Blue Line Extension is gaining more attention.

On Wednesday, officials from Hennepin County and planners rode a bus along the latest planned route between Brooklyn Park and downtown Minneapolis.

Along the way, they heard from local politicians, business owners and community activists who have different perspectives.

Teto Wilson owns Wilson’s Image, a long-time barber shop on West Broadway Avenue near Penn Avenue in north Minneapolis.

Wilson worries he’ll lose street parking from the rail line and business during construction.

"People are not gonna wait for me and for the streets and everything to clear up before they come back, they'll either stick with me, be loyal and just deal with the construction, and all those things going on, or they'll find another shop to go to,” he said.

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Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle said businesses are right to focus on construction.

“That is absolutely disruptive. But I think there's some techniques and opportunities that we could deploy, and we're going to be open to a lot of different ways to make it work.” he said.

Some officials from cities along the route have raised issues with the proposal, such as what it might do to arterial roads.

Crystal Community Development Director John Sutter said there are pros and cons that the city council is weighing.

“The number one concern of some of our council members is that they are proposing to remove one traffic lane in each direction on County Road 81, Bottineau Boulevard, and narrow it from six lanes to four,” Sutter said. “I would say that at least at a staff level, the city is skeptical but open minded about whether that can work “And we're not there yet.”

Sutter said on the positive side, light rail brings more development and access to jobs.

“We see it as an accelerator,” he said. “We feel light rail is not just about giving Crystal residents access to downtown Minneapolis. It also creates opportunities to get up and down the whole corridor and elsewhere in the region.”

Zelle said receiving input and changing the plan where possible is part of the process.

"We always say planning is not a straight line, we have to do a lot of listening, responding, tweaking and at the end of the day, it comes together,” he said. “So this phase, which is not any final plan — it is an opportunity for us to engage more deeply."

The proposed 13-mile route goes along Lyndale and West Broadway Avenues before stopping at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, then follows Bottineau Boulevard into Crystal before rejoining West Broadway. The last of the 11 stations is near Highways 610 and 169, not far from Target’s suburban office campus.

The Met Council is taking public input. Environmental studies are the next step. Construction could start by 2025.