Blue Line Extension

Jump to my 11 Asks for Robbinsdale

On Thursday 7/14, I attended a community meeting about the Blue Line Extension where County Commissioner Lunde and staff person Anna spoke about the latest developments and addressed various concerns. During Whiz Bang Day's Sidewalk Sale, I spoke with Kjerstin from Metro Transit about various concerns as well. As of Thursday 7/14, there is no chance of the Blue Line co-locating with the BNSF line, the options for that have been exhausted.

As of Thursday 7/14, there is no chance of the Blue Line co-locating with the BNSF line, the options for that have been exhausted.

This was always the likely result, as I have pointed out while canvassing every residence in Robbinsdale Ward 3. BNSF refused to work with them on light rail and even turned down a 9 figure buyout of the rail line. The County and Metro Transit worked hard to get the other alignment.

The Blue Line Extension is happening and it should happen. One of the more conservative candidates, David Robins, made the claim that buses are enough and opposes light rail. If you have used transit regularly in the metro area as I have, you know that buses simply are not enough, and light rail and buses should work together to reduce wait/commute times, reduce noise, reduce traffic, and reduce pollution. Buses don't spur the development that permanent rail does because bus lines can move or be scaled back at any time. I'm excited for the increased options, equity, and economic benefits of the Blue Line Extension for our city and other cities along the route. Now let's get the best deal for #Robbinsdale!

A competitor -- Jenn Strater -- whose stated main goal is to support transit appears to support the Blue Line Extension without conditions was rather rude and sneared at me when I spoke about getting the best deal for Robbinsdale during the meeting with Commissioner Lunde. As anyone who has lived through this type of project in Hennepin County should know, incentives for municipal consent are how things are done here for this type of project. Having conditions is the responsible way to fund capital improvements for our city without having to raise city property taxes, and I hear over and over from Ward 3 residents that they do not want their taxes raised while the cost of goods like food keeps spiraling. By asking for what we want now, we can save the city and save city taxpayers millions of dollars in future costs while fixing some glaring problems at the same time.

People on a train

I am pro-BLE as a matter of equity and I'm excited to use it in 5 years, but I still have conditions for providing support. As we saw during other projects like the Green Line, adding rail is disruptive and can destroy swaths of small businesses and price out residents. I am really glad to see that Hennepin County and Metro Transit are both working diligently to make this project as minimally disruptive and as maximally beneficial as possible. Kjerstin of Metro Transit stated that through careful planning, the construction in Robbinsdale should take no more than one year and they figured out a way to keep the frontage roads. The "survey area" they are considering for the downtown Robbinsdale station is roughly between 39th and 42nd, which makes sense. As close as we can get the station to city center the better, and the station should be on the west side of Bottineau.

To compensate for the inconvenience of construction and to reduce disparities, the County will fund some improvements.

My 11 Asks to Gain Robbinsdale's Approval: 

1 ) Make Bottineau safe to cross. Especially at 36th, it is dangerous to cross #Highway81 now -- even for able-bodied adults -- due to short lights and traffic that drives way too fast. Given the costs and logistics, neither elevating nor tunneling the traffic/transit will work. A raised pedestrian bridge like we have over Highway 100 is also not being considered.

Photo of a traffic jam on a highway

But we should do the following:

- Increased traffic enforcement on 81.

- There is newer light rail technology that allows for shallow rail that is safe, accessible, and easy to cross for those with varying abilities. Shallow rail should be used for this project.

- Utilize tactics for safe crosswalk #accessibility, including audio alerts and lights to alert drivers when pedestrians are in the crosswalk.

- Add pedestrian refuges should someone get stuck halfway through the light so they could safely wait until the next light.

- Time the lights better, so getting stuck in the middle is rare.

2 ) Add a Park and Ride ramp at the light rail station, so people can easily access transit and then spend money in our downtown before they drive home, whether elsewhere in Robbinsdale or in surrounding cities.

3 ) Metro safety measures:

- Security at each station and on each light rail train.

- If homeless people are on the trains (which is not a crime), get them the housing and services they need. We should house the homeless.

- Kjerstin mentioned reducing the penalty for not purchasing a ticket from a misdemeanor to a citation, since peace officers are in high demand and there aren't enough now. Citations don't require an officer to hand them out. It will be crucial that each type of security protect and serve all of the public.

4 ) Power the Robbinsdale stations with Renewable Energy to be responsible and make good on the Climate Emergency that was declared in our city.

Worker installing solar panels

5 ) Anti-displacement for residents and businesses, so they benefit from the light rail and aren't priced out when values rise.

6 ) Invest in sound reduction for Bottineau, because that highway is really loud as it is. The light rail isn't expected to increase the noise level on the road too much, but while door knocking the houses facing 81 we had to stop at points and wait to resume talking because the traffic noise made it impossible to hear each other. A barrier between Bottineau and the frontage road could help, whether it is composed of concrete, plastic, or shrubs.

7 ) Sewer and utility lines that were not updated when Highway 81 was redone in 2008 should be upgraded this time.

8 ) Have either County or Metro Transit staff at each Lakeview Terrace Farmer's Market (Saturdays 9am-1pm) and at Robbinsdale City Council meetings to answer questions and push back against misinformation.

9 ) Move the bus transit station from the underutilized Hubbard Marketplace to the downtown #Robbinsdale light rail station so that we have one station for both bus and rail (Hubbard Marketplace should still be on the bus lines).

10 ) Give the historic Hubbard Marketplace building to the city of Robbinsdale so that we can use it as our Community Center for meetings and events.

11 ) Financially support our parks:

- A revamp of Manor Park is in the works.

- Restoration work at our historic Graeser Park has been underway.

- The warming house at Sanborn Park is in disrepair.

- Triangle Park is underutilized and would benefit from funding to restore the line of trees along Noble Avenue and add pollinator plants.

I would love to mention a park in Ward 3, but after the redistricting earlier this year, we no longer have one. Lee Park was inexplicably shifted to Ward 4.

What do you think? What would you ask for Birdtown?

A woman sitting down on a light rail train

What would you ask for Birdtown?