Partners are working with community to bring light rail service to North Minneapolis and northwest communities, connecting people to jobs, healthcare, education, culture, and more.
The Blue Line Extension Project, led by Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council, will connect communities from Target Field Station to North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Brooklyn Park. These communities are among the state’s most diverse and have some of the highest numbers of households who rely on transit for everyday activities.
The project presents a unique opportunity to improve transportation equity, help communities build wealth in place, and drive neighborhood visions for investment and development.
New direction brings new opportunities
Planning for the Blue Line Extension started more than a decade ago. In late 2020, project partners announced a new direction for the project. After many years of unsuccessful conversations with the freight railroad carrier, it was time to find a revised, community-supported route that does not use freight rail property, as originally planned.
While the need for this change was unfortunate, it also presents an exciting opportunity to improve the Blue Line Extension and serve even more people and destinations, while maintaining as much of the existing route as possible.
At the same time, there were previous promises made and impacts already experienced by some communities along the previous route that will no longer be served directly. In particular, pedestrian improvements along Highway 55 in the Harrison Neighborhood will no longer be part of the project as previously planned. Partners are committed to working with communities to find other ways to advance these improvements and rectify other impacts felt by these communities from the previous route.
Initial route options
Based on community feedback and technical considerations, like where light rail will physically fit and where there is the density and destinations that will make it most valuable to communities, project partners identified in March that West Broadway and Lowry avenues are two good potential options to serve North Minneapolis.
Through Crystal and Robbinsdale, the route could shift from the rail corridor to Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81), which runs parallel to the railroad. In Brooklyn Park, the route and stations are expected to remain the same.
The project has been busy meeting with corridor groups and residents and collecting feedback on these initial route options since March. They are now analyzing that feedback to refine the routes and inform work moving forward and have begun to share back what they heard from this phase of engagement soon.
Working with you to plan your light rail
Making sure this once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment benefits current residents and businesses is critical. Project partners are working closely with a wide variety of community partners, businesses, cities, and other stakeholder groups to involve as many voices as possible in the planning and decision-making process that represent the diversity of the communities along the route.
Project partners recognize that you are the experts on your community, and that your involvement in project planning and decision-making is the only way to deliver a light rail project that meets your community’s needs. This is your light rail project and partners are committed to working with you to maximize the many benefits light rail can bring.
To ensure voices from all backgrounds are involved, Hennepin County has contracted with 14 community and cultural organizations that serve corridor residents and stakeholders. This Community Engagement Cohort has already been active in your neighborhood, gathering input, hosting events, and offering guidance to project staff. They’ll be busy this summer out in the community.
In addition to the Community Engagement Cohort, the Metropolitan Council convenes both business and community advisory committees who make recommendations to the Corridor Management Committee, which is made up of corridor elected officials and community leaders.
Preventing displacement, maximizing community benefits
Community partners have been vocal in elevating the potential for displacement as a primary concern. Project partners have heard and share these concerns.
For the first time ever, Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County is convening an Anti-displacement Workgroup that will center community voices and bring together a variety of partners and stakeholders to advance and implement robust anti-displacement strategies that help ensure the value of light rail will benefit current corridor residents, and minimize physical, cultural, and economic displacement.
This effort will require many partners coming together to strategize and take action. To advance this work, the Blue Line Extension project will release later this month a request for proposals for an organization to convene and coordinate work of the Anti-displacement Workgroup. Proposals will be due by the end of July, and the group is expected to get to work in early fall. This work will be ongoing throughout the life of the project, and beyond with a focus on both short- and long-term solutions.
What to expect next
Project partners hope to identify a single community-supported route by the end of this year to advance to environmental review and engineering. The project is still in the very early stages and opening day is still many years away.
In the next month, you will hear more about and be able to provide input on station locations and potential designs that show how light rail could look in your area.
Stay tuned to the project website and follow along on social media for all the latest updates, events, and activities. Project staff are available to meet with your group or neighbors, and are always happy to answer questions and hear your feedback.
Let’s work together to build your light rail.