Blue Line Extension - Bottineau LRT

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CalMcKenney
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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby CalMcKenney » February 13th, 2020, 9:51 am

Couldn't this be a good thing if they change the route to something more beneficial to residents? Or does this push the timeline back 5+ years?

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby VacantLuxuries » February 13th, 2020, 9:56 am

Using the spur alignment was our regional leaders looking for a shortcut to the ribbon cutting in the first place. Assuming BNSF's participation was incredibly stupid and doubling down on that decision with no progress being made towards reconciliation only burnt up time and money for the project.

I don't blame BNSF nearly as much as I do the boosters who wanted the easiest way to get a shiny train out to Brooklyn Park greenfield sites without considering either the needs of transit dependent populations they were passing on the way out there or the fact that they didn't own the land they were planning to use. They should have learned from SWLRT and dealing with TC&W. They didn't, and the NW suburbs paid the price.

This undoubtedly will push BOTLRT off the shortlist for federal funding. And I think that's fine, come back with an actual good project that's worth spending 1.5 billion on and don't assume third parties (especially ones who aren't accountable to anyone) are going to give you their right of way.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby alexschief » February 13th, 2020, 12:07 pm

Adopting a different route will delay the project by many years. The project is already at 90% engineering, so millions have been spent on designing for the existing alignment, and all of that work would need to be redone for the realigned portion. More problematic would be that the project would lose its spot in the FTA's Capital Investment Grant funding queue. It would all probably result in a 3-5 year delay at the shortest.

It's absolutely incredible that the project advanced so far without a written agreement with BNSF.

Despite the long delay and the sunk cost, the project really should be redesigned with a new route. It would be worth fighting for the existing route if it were a good one. But it is not, it's a garbage route that barely serves North Minneapolis. It was chosen because it was assumed that it would be easy to avoid taking lanes of traffic on Broadway and Bottineau Blvd. But taking the easy route often leads to unforeseen complications later on, and that's what has happened here.

Metro Transit and the County should go back to the drawing board and get it right.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby acs » February 13th, 2020, 1:07 pm

Or the county could just admit they screwed up, offer BNSF the crystal connection they want, and move on. If the railroad still won't budge after that then it looks far worse on them.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby SurlyLHT » February 13th, 2020, 2:44 pm

I'm wondering if this would be just better with BRT? I don't see the advantages of LRT once you go with a different more expensive route. There really isn't a ton of density along this route and it is pretty car-centric, but not as congested as the roadways near the SWLRT.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby VacantLuxuries » February 13th, 2020, 2:45 pm

Or the county could just admit they screwed up, offer BNSF the crystal connection they want, and move on. If the railroad still won't budge after that then it looks far worse on them.
At this point, that's a terrible trade-off. BNSF shutting down the northwest suburbs with mile-long trains going ten miles an hour? No, Hennepin made the correct move. And if it also happened to set wheels in motion to force a change to the bad BOTLRT routing, all the better. Mike Opat doesn't get a feather in his cap but we might get a better transit line in the end.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby alexschief » February 13th, 2020, 3:43 pm

I'm wondering if this would be just better with BRT? I don't see the advantages of LRT once you go with a different more expensive route. There really isn't a ton of density along this route and it is pretty car-centric, but not as congested as the roadways near the SWLRT.
This is putting things in the wrong order. The alignment should respond to the mode. The mode should not respond to the alignment. In other words, it's not a good argument to say "well the rail track was just sitting there, that's why we needed to use LRT, now that the rail track is off the table, we should go to BRT." That's a recipe for bad transit.

The mode properly responds to the needs of the corridor. Either the corridor justifies LRT or it doesn't. Once we've established what the service needs of the corridor are and chosen a mode, then it's appropriate to figure out the correct alignment.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby SurlyLHT » February 13th, 2020, 4:24 pm

I'm wondering if this would be just better with BRT? I don't see the advantages of LRT once you go with a different more expensive route. There really isn't a ton of density along this route and it is pretty car-centric, but not as congested as the roadways near the SWLRT.
This is putting things in the wrong order. The alignment should respond to the mode. The mode should not respond to the alignment. In other words, it's not a good argument to say "well the rail track was just sitting there, that's why we needed to use LRT, now that the rail track is off the table, we should go to BRT." That's a recipe for bad transit.

The mode properly responds to the needs of the corridor. Either the corridor justifies LRT or it doesn't. Once we've established what the service needs of the corridor are and chosen a mode, then it's appropriate to figure out the correct alignment.
In that case if the mode is LRT then other alignments will go through a cost-benefit analysis and due the extra costs of not going through an existing rail corridor and be found as more costly with greater pushback from neighbors.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby mister.shoes » February 13th, 2020, 5:03 pm

I'd be curious to see if the pushback actually is greater now than it was however long ago the original alignments were being debated/chosen. The Green Line has proven wildly successful and the combination of having both Green and Blue is starting to open eyes to the benefits of a proper rail system. Additionally, it seems the general attitude toward rail (through dense areas and otherwise) in MSP is improving. I can't help but think/hope/dream an alignment which actually goes through the heart of North would be resisted less now than before.
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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby alexschief » February 14th, 2020, 8:11 am

I'm wondering if this would be just better with BRT? I don't see the advantages of LRT once you go with a different more expensive route. There really isn't a ton of density along this route and it is pretty car-centric, but not as congested as the roadways near the SWLRT.
This is putting things in the wrong order. The alignment should respond to the mode. The mode should not respond to the alignment. In other words, it's not a good argument to say "well the rail track was just sitting there, that's why we needed to use LRT, now that the rail track is off the table, we should go to BRT." That's a recipe for bad transit.

The mode properly responds to the needs of the corridor. Either the corridor justifies LRT or it doesn't. Once we've established what the service needs of the corridor are and chosen a mode, then it's appropriate to figure out the correct alignment.
In that case if the mode is LRT then other alignments will go through a cost-benefit analysis and due the extra costs of not going through an existing rail corridor and be found as more costly with greater pushback from neighbors.
Yes of course, all proposed re-alignments should be closely studied. There are additional costs created by going on city streets (there are also some costs saved, for instance, you would no longer need lifts to access the two platforms along the western edge) and there are additional benefits created by putting transit where people actually live and work. I certainly think the marginal benefits are greater than the marginal costs, but nobody should take my word for it.

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Re: RE: Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » February 14th, 2020, 8:30 am


it's a garbage route that barely serves North Minneapolis.
The route is far from perfect and I'd personally prefer a different alignment but the current route down Olson would serve quite a large number of North residents. It does a lot more than "barely" serve North Minneapolis.

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Re: RE: Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Bakken2016 » February 14th, 2020, 8:41 am

it's a garbage route that barely serves North Minneapolis.
The route is far from perfect and I'd personally prefer a different alignment but the current route down Olson would serve quite a large number of North residents. It does a lot more than "barely" serve North Minneapolis.

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And especially since the C Line would then be rerouted via Glenwood serving more people as well.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby mamundsen » February 14th, 2020, 10:25 am

Anyone have a link to the routes originally studied? I assume they'd start with those if the route was reassesed.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Silophant » February 14th, 2020, 11:12 am

I'd be curious to see if the pushback actually is greater now than it was however long ago the original alignments were being debated/chosen. The Green Line has proven wildly successful and the combination of having both Green and Blue is starting to open eyes to the benefits of a proper rail system. Additionally, it seems the general attitude toward rail (through dense areas and otherwise) in MSP is improving. I can't help but think/hope/dream an alignment which actually goes through the heart of North would be resisted less now than before.
One would think, now that we're committed to building tunnels though parks and under freeways, that a tunnel under a major street wouldn't be seen as a complete non-starter.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » February 14th, 2020, 12:32 pm

I mean, you realize that building under a major street is a completely different beast than under railway ROW, right? Not that I would oppose it but the state strikes me as a bad comparison.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby EOst » February 14th, 2020, 2:57 pm

Right, it's apples and oranges. And you have to keep in mind that the cost of underground stations is enormous.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby DanPatchToget » February 14th, 2020, 3:09 pm

From an engineering perspective anything is possible. The question is can we get the funding for a North Minneapolis subway and should we do it?

Also, if this were a deep bore tunnel would there even be construction impacts on the surface besides building station entrances?

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » February 14th, 2020, 3:37 pm

Anyone have a link to the routes originally studied? I assume they'd start with those if the route was reassesed.
First post in this thread:
New route proposed for Bottineau LRT
It looks like they're planning to skip N. Minneapolis and go deeper in Brooklyn Park instead of west towards Maple Grove. I think it would be a mistake to skip N. Minneapolis, but I'm sure the suburbanites wouldn't want to go through that area.
Much earlier on, when they were still scoping both LRT and BRT modes, there was a wider "universe of alternatives" that included N Lyndale, Emerson/Fremont, etc for BRT. But these were the only route options that were studied for LRT.

Important to point out that the Penn-Broadway alternative still used 5 miles of the freight rail corridor between North Memorial (36th Ave N) and ~694 (71st Ave N). So it's not like the freight rail issue is unique to this particular routing.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » February 14th, 2020, 3:43 pm

It has always made much more sense to me to build the streetcar along Broadway to Robbinsdale, along with commuter rail on the existing RR tracks that could go out to Maple Grove and Rogers. How many cars could we take off 94 during rush hours if there was a big P&R lot out in Rogers? (Note: I'm stopping at Rogers because that's where Hennepin County's money stops. I'm sure some of you train-brains immediately started thinking about Albertville and beyond...didn't ya?)

I bet we could do both streetcar and commuter rail for less than the >$1.5B cost of Bottineau LRT. Might be enough money left over to put BRT on Bottineau Boulevard, so the communities along this horribly planned route aren't completely screwed over. Brooklyn Park has spent a significant sum on station area planning, and it would be unfair to abandon them completely.

The truth is that this Blue Line extension never made much sense at all, and came into being for the purely political reasons of "we need to build light rail in northwest Hennepin County for regional fairness" and that Target put their thumb on the scales to predetermine the endpoint. It didn't make sense in 2012 at ~$1B, and it sure as hell doesn't make sense now at nearly $2B.

For those who have been paying attention since the early 2000s, the Bottineau corridor had long been identified as BRT. I don't know what the route(s) were, but IIRC there were two BRT corridors being planned in this quadrant of the metro. It only got re-scoped as LRT after the Blue Line was a huge success and the Green Line began construction, circa 2010-2011. I bet someone reading this could dig up the old BRT plans. As I understand it, plans were pretty far along and actually got scuttled by the decision to do a new alternatives analysis.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby alexschief » February 17th, 2020, 8:06 am

Not studying LRT on Lyndale N up to Broadway doesn't make much sense to me, I don't believe there's a single property which relies on that street for access and AADT on that street is pretty light (7,800). The property at the corner of Lyndale N and Broadway is a Cub and a large surface lot, which could easily be cut across on a diagonal (you'd first want to replace the grocery store for the neighborhood). Even Broadway's AADT (13,000) is well below the threshold where traffic engineers insist it remain as wide as it is.

From Broadway, the obvious solution to the railroad's intransigence is simply to continue the route on Bottineau Boulevard instead.


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