Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

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MNdible
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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » August 7th, 2020, 1:25 pm

I'm not sure about all of the technical reasons why, but it seems like the lesson from the Hiawatha routing of the green line is that side-running (vs. center running) makes the signalling and traffic management much more complicated.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby DanPatchToget » August 7th, 2020, 1:59 pm

I don't know if the crash stats would support this argument, but hasn't center-running made train-car and train-pedestrian crashes more likely?

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Bakken2016 » August 7th, 2020, 2:37 pm

People should attend this and make their opinions heard!
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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Mdcastle » August 7th, 2020, 5:28 pm

I'm not sure the issues with Hiawatha were as much side vs center running as having preemption on a very heavily traveled corridor, then having too redo it when the speed of the train changed. One of the councilmembers of the area came on streets and said he was going to get a consultant to install flashing yellow arrows to further ease traffic; that was several years ago and the protected only turns are still there.

As for tunneling, are we suggesting there's as much political will to tunnel under single family detached houses as under an airport? I know we tunneled to avoid townhouses but that doesn't mean we're obligated to blow money like that again.

There's probably enough space on Bottineau Blvd for two traffic lanes each direction as well as light rail, assuming we remove the frontage roads, but it's too bad we didn't do this before we completely reconstructed the entire roadway with no provision for light rail.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby DanPatchToget » August 7th, 2020, 8:23 pm

As for tunneling, are we suggesting there's as much political will to tunnel under single family detached houses as under an airport? I know we tunneled to avoid townhouses but that doesn't mean we're obligated to blow money like that again.
I'm suggesting there should be the political will to tunnel under a dense and transit-dependent area if taking away space from cars in this area is a no-go. Also there's more to the story than just tunneling for Southwest to avoid townhouses. The townhouses took away space that was originally railroad right-of-way, the freight reroute was a no-go, and rerouting the trail was a no-go even though that would've been pretty easy and cheap compared to tunneling or rerouting freight trains, so the purpose of tunneling was mainly so the Kenilworth Trail didn't have to be permanently rerouted. We could've colocated Southwest and the freight rail while rerouting the trail and saved millions, but somehow there was enough political will to build a light rail tunnel instead. If there's no political will to tunnel under North Minneapolis to avoid most of the community impact of road closures and construction while keeping a competitive travel time for riders going longer distances then that is quite the double standard.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby EOst » August 9th, 2020, 12:25 pm

Main Street, at least southwest of Ensemble/HCC Station, seems to be 80' ROW and a very pleasant pedestrian environment, even with a large landscaped median of station-width between the tracks for the entire stretch and in some places some really excessive sidewalk planting.

I apologize for the confusion, I guess that neighborhood is called Midtown, and not Downtown.
Ah, there I see it. That design to me looks pretty questionable for a major arterial road, and those sidewalks are still below standards for a commercial corridor, but that is a demonstration that it is technically possible.

A more local (and probably more directly relevant) example is Washington Ave through part of Stadium Village, which is also 80'. I don't think the cross-section there works very well for anyone, but YMMV.
For the suburban portion of the route, one thing that seems inevitable no matter what route is chosen is the use of Bottineau Ave ROW instead of the rail corridor. What does everyone think about side-running vs. center running? South of Hwy. 100, I'd probably want it to be in the center of the street, like the Green Line. North of 100 doesn't matter as much because it's not walkable period. By the point you reach Bass Lake Road (the first station north of 100), the RR tracks are tight on the west side of Bottineau Blvd. It probably makes sense to put the LRT tracks on the west side of the road as well, so you don't have a roadway between two sets of tracks.
The roadway (with a bit of sidewalk buffer) on the west side goes right up to the edge of the railroad ROW, so I don't think you could construct it there without reconstructing the entirety of Bottineau to shift it east.
There's probably enough space on Bottineau Blvd for two traffic lanes each direction as well as light rail, assuming we remove the frontage roads, but it's too bad we didn't do this before we completely reconstructed the entire roadway with no provision for light rail.
I may be too cynical, but this factor makes me skeptical that HCPW would ever accept Bottineau as the routing.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Oreos&Milk » August 9th, 2020, 2:45 pm

I think keep it running down 55 , redevelopment at the golf course (spend that money buying them out instead of the railroad company) then power through glenview terrace park and valley view park (shallow tunnel to preserve park space?) then follow up Theodore wirth pkwy to bottineau blvd.

Golf course redevelopment would attract business community to support it if they can profit off it. Plus it would serve the community and not be too disruptive but maybe the shallow park tunnel wouldn’t work?

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby HuskyGrad » August 10th, 2020, 3:46 pm

I think keep it running down 55 , redevelopment at the golf course (spend that money buying them out instead of the railroad company) then power through glenview terrace park and valley view park (shallow tunnel to preserve park space?) then follow up Theodore wirth pkwy to bottineau blvd.

Golf course redevelopment would attract business community to support it if they can profit off it. Plus it would serve the community and not be too disruptive but maybe the shallow park tunnel wouldn’t work?
Any parkland should be turned into uses that better support the neighborhoods around it. Hopefully, golf courses are turned into fields, forests, sports fields, etc. for the public and not turned into private land. With this pandemic it seems all important that space is needed for the community to spread out and enjoy the outdoors.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » August 10th, 2020, 6:47 pm

The roadway (with a bit of sidewalk buffer) on the west side goes right up to the edge of the railroad ROW, so I don't think you could construct it there without reconstructing the entirety of Bottineau to shift it east.
I’m assuming Bottineau Blvd would see a near-total reconstruction whether you put LRT on the side or in the middle. Like you said, for side running they need to shift the roadway over, likely needing to reconstruct >50% of the lanes. But the same would be true of center running, due to modifying the left turn lanes, signals, etc. I’d want a full reconstruction anyways, if the goal is a more walkable corridor with wider sidewalks, narrower driving lanes, etc.

So for those that don’t know, north of Hwy. 100, Bottineau is a 6/7 lane behemoth. I’m guessing the relatively recent super-stroad design had more to do with shortening queues/cycles at stoplights than overwhelmingly high AADT - I doubt the traffic counts necessitate that many lanes. North of 100, this shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

From 100 to Mpls city limits, it’s a smaller 4/5 lane road, and tougher decisions await. As mdcastle said, there are some frontage roads that could go away. Either entirely removed, narrowed into one ways or even become alleys in residential areas on the east side of Bottineau. All of this section is in Robbinsdale. Getting municipal consent could be very, very difficult. There are going to be impacts to residential neighborhoods and local traffic patterns.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby alexschief » August 13th, 2020, 2:08 pm

Listening to the Bottineau Boulevard call. Notes:

- Chair Zelle believes there is an opportunity to make the project better by revisiting the alignment.
- Suburban mayors don't believe all options with BNSF have been exhausted, want the state to go to the mat with BNSF even as it investigates other alternatives. Don't believe they were consulted on the Met Council's statement backing away from the previous alignment, and still in support of the BNSF alignment.
- Chair Zelle defends the effort of the Met Council and the state (of which he was a part as MnDOT Commissioner), says that effort was equal for the Blue Line Ext as the Green Line Ext, and involved the personal efforts of the Governor. Says if BNSF surprisingly comes back to the table, they'll be ready to meet them, but says nothing is more expensive than just waiting for something new to happen without trying anything different. Says that BNSF has not budged from their opposition for four years, and that he at this point he believes the railroad is sincere is will not budge.
- Suburban mayors make a motion calling on the state to continue pushing with BNSF at the same time that it explores other alignments.
- Council proposes pretty obvious principles for the work of looking at another alignment:
+ Meet the FTA New Starts criteria (P&N, ridership, travel time, project rating),
+ Maintain the existing alignment to the greatest extent possible (Target Field to Oak Grove Station),
+ Mitigate impacts (residential takings and transit redundancy).
- Council proposes a turnaround time that would relaunch a public process on the line for the start of next year.
- Mpls CM Ellison points out that if Mike freakin' Opat (my words, not his) is saying this is the end of the line with BNSF, then it's probably the end of the line. Says a new alignment is in order not just because BNSF isn't cooperating, but because the current alignment sucks (my words, not his). Tags in CM Cunningham, who backs him up. The politics of viewing who is served by this and how have changed. Brooklyn Center Mayor Elliott jumps in and echoes the sentiments. Powerful triple statement from three new leaders who are people of color.
- More back-and-forth about the motion. Suburban mayors seem convinced that all Bottineau needs is some muscle at Capitol Hill, citing the late Rep. Oberstar who I guess brought the hammer down on BNSF to get Northstar through (would've had NLX by now if he had stayed in office and subsequently lived). Mad at BNSF for the poor condition of their tracks.
- Motion does not pass. Interesting divide, almost all of the people of color voted no, almost all of the white people voted yes.
- Next meeting will be October, I think.
- Really nasty comment made after the vote by a woman who I didn't catch who vows "we will remember this." Calls this the "working people's line." Lotta people really committed to bypassing North Minneapolis.

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Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » August 13th, 2020, 2:52 pm

Great notes!

The last quote is ominous.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Bakken2016 » August 13th, 2020, 2:57 pm

The suburban mayors are delusional if think BNSF will change their mind.

Was that last comment by the woman in favor of it going through North or not? I’m getting mixed signals from it.


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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby DanPatchToget » August 13th, 2020, 3:13 pm

If they're that desperate for the BNSF alignment then tell Hennepin County to give up the land in Crystal that BNSF needs to build their connection with Canadian Pacific. Otherwise it's either a no-go or jumping through a lot of hoops for several years to try to make BNSF cooperate. Or pray that Joe Biden wins and his administration will put pressure on freight railroads to cooperate.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby alexschief » August 13th, 2020, 3:23 pm

Was that last comment by the woman in favor of it going through North or not? I’m getting mixed signals from it.
It was from someone who was disappointed that the motion to continue pressuring BNSF did not pass. She insinuated that the people who voted against the motion did not want the Blue Line Extension to go forward, and after Chair Zelle politely insisted that everyone on the call was committed to the line, she expressed that she did not believe that.

It was hard for me to understand her comment about the "working people's line" since everyone basically wants the train to go exactly where it does except for the area in North Minneapolis, so if anything, more people will be added to the alignment and nobody will be excluded. My read was that she was implying that people in North Minneapolis are not "working people," but perhaps she was only trying to draw a contrast with Southwest.

I was honestly a bit surprised and disappointed with the commitment by the suburban mayors to the BNSF routing. It seemed to go beyond wanting the project to get done, they actually seemed to believe that was the superior alignment. But I was also heartened by the commitment from both Minneapolis CMs, Mayor Elliott, and Mayor Frey's representative on the call, who all backed a routing that better-served the northside.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Silophant » August 13th, 2020, 3:53 pm

It must be pretty rough to have spent the last decade thinking that you were going to get LRT and still be able to keep your giant stroad, and to now realize you might have to choose one or the other.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby BBMplsMN » August 13th, 2020, 4:56 pm

It must be pretty rough to have spent the last decade thinking that you were going to get LRT and still be able to keep your giant stroad, and to now realize you might have to choose one or the other.
Or that you might be bypassed entirely (Golden Valley) depending on a new alignment. Think about working for years or decades on a project, only to be left out of the final product.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Silophant » August 13th, 2020, 5:42 pm

That's a fair point, though I'd argue that two stations on the other side of a half-mile wide park is already bypassing Golden Valley, despite being technically located within city limits. If Golden Valley wants a transitway that actually serves the city, instead of just having a dot on the map that says "Golden Valley", they should be pushing for an Orange Line extension down 394 or 55.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby tmart » August 15th, 2020, 12:28 am

I know the politics of cars are nothing like the reality, but from a geometry perspective I really don't find the argument that Broadway is too narrow to be particularly compelling. It's part of a mostly grid-like structure so flow changes from cutting down to one slow travel lane each way and banning left turns could be relatively easily absorbed. 10ft lanes and 20mph speeds are appropriate for an urban environment. Cutting parking would be no great loss; there are numerous surface lots and abundant free parking on cross-streets.

Would love to see Minneapolis push for that configuration, and it's also consistent with official city goals like a 40% reduction in VMT and prioritizing transit over private cars in street planning. I don't think they've had a chance to participate in serious LRT planning since those policies came into effect.

I'm always fine with a tunnel, of course, but it's expensive and takes longer and might lead to stops being placed less conveniently to cut costs.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby DanPatchToget » August 15th, 2020, 5:09 pm

I'm always fine with a tunnel, of course, but it's expensive and takes longer and might lead to stops being placed less conveniently to cut costs.
This project is already expensive. Granted it would be more expensive with a tunnel, but lets not pretend the Blue Line Extension running almost entirely at-grade would be cheap. There's also an argument to be made about safety; if we built this on West Broadway would it still be possible to make that corridor pedestrian-friendly? The University Avenue Corridor sure isn't, though that's more of an issue with cars than the Green Line, but the light rail is still a barrier along that corridor.

Also, assuming the tracks would be embedded in concrete along West Broadway, is that going to come back to haunt us? There's been rail corrosion issues with the embedded track in the downtowns and along University Avenue.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby tmart » August 16th, 2020, 11:36 am

I'm always fine with a tunnel, of course, but it's expensive and takes longer and might lead to stops being placed less conveniently to cut costs.
This project is already expensive. Granted it would be more expensive with a tunnel, but lets not pretend the Blue Line Extension running almost entirely at-grade would be cheap. There's also an argument to be made about safety; if we built this on West Broadway would it still be possible to make that corridor pedestrian-friendly? The University Avenue Corridor sure isn't, though that's more of an issue with cars than the Green Line, but the light rail is still a barrier along that corridor.

Also, assuming the tracks would be embedded in concrete along West Broadway, is that going to come back to haunt us? There's been rail corrosion issues with the embedded track in the downtowns and along University Avenue.
Again, I'm personally in support of tunnels and if it were up to me way more of our network would be grade-separated. Whatever we spent on a subway would be worth it.

But I don't think this segment is a particularly strong candidate compared to other places we've chosen to build at-grade. If we didn't choose tunneling for Downtown Minneapolis or Downtown St. Paul or the U or Uptown, what makes it more feasible now? If the answer is that we've decided all those other projects were flawed, and we're now more interested in providing excellent service for urban populations and more willing to pour cash into capital projects, then that's great! We can start with North and also kick off planning to improve existing, more-critical segments. But I don't really see any indication that our politics or leadership are even close to that mindset yet.

And if that's not our mindset, and we're operating under the same priorities and constraints that gave us the existing network, then I don't think the street conditions alone justify a subway. It's an overwide, mostly-straight street in an area that isn't very car-dependant relative to the rest of the region.

As far as pedestrian safety goes, I think a street with center-running trains, improved protected crossings at stations, and one slow lane each way for cars is a strict improvement over the 4+ lane high-speed road we have today, particularly if the LRT is paired with more pedestrian-oriented development (say, some street-facing buildings in existing surface lots).

Regarding durability, I'm not familiar specifically with the issues with existing embedded tracks, but given how common street-running trams are throughout the world, it's hard for me to imagine there isn't an off-the-shelf solution out there.


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