Through design sketches, renderings, maps, slides, graphs and graphics, the community got an view of what the proposed METRO Blue Line Light Rail Transit Extension in Minneapolis might look like once it is completed and becomes a reality in 2030.
At a virtual community meeting on Nov. 14, key project staff members discussed the proposed North Loop and 21st Avenue alignment options. They showed design concepts and shared project updates on the staff recommended route with citizens who dialed in to listen, share comments and ask questions.
“This will be fast, frequent all day service, with 12 new stations,” said Chris Beckwith, project director for the METRO Blue Line Extension Project. “This is the last leg of the light rail transit system envisioned many years ago.”
Once completed, the METRO Blue Line Extension is proposed to operate on 13.4 miles of track. It will connect downtown Minneapolis to residents and businesses in the communities of North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Brooklyn Park.
In Minneapolis, the recommendation is to extend light rail from Target Field Station along a corridor that runs east of I-94. The line would run along 10th Ave and Washington Ave, and on 21st Avenue between I-94 and James Avenue, where it would join West Broadway.
The design recommendation proposes a new bridge that will cross Interstate 94 at 21st Avenue, creating a new community connection across the highway and to the river.
“It will carry light rail, with access for pedestrians and bikes to cross,” said Bojan Misic, civil engineering manager with Hennepin County.
While light rail would not run on West Broadway from I-94 to James Avenue to avoid impacting businesses, planners are looking to invest in improvements to West Broadway in that area, according to Misic.
“We will maintain street parking, lighting will be updated, there will be boulevards with trees and traffic and safety improvements,” Misic said. “We could see improved pedestrian and bike access, with sidewalks and bike facilities. This gives us some opportunities to create some landscaping.”
The cross streets between 21st and West Broadway are also being studied for improvements to connect light rail riders to businesses and destinations on West Broadway.
When the METRO Blue Line Extension is completed, it will offer a one-seat ride from Brooklyn Park to the Mall of America in Bloomington, with stops throughout Minneapolis, Crystal and Robbinsdale and at the two terminals of MSP International Airport. Passengers will also be able to transfer to the Green Line to travel to destinations including the University of Minnesota, the Capitol and downtown St Paul as well as many connections to local and rapid bus routes.
But there is much work to accomplish in the years before the first track is laid. The multi-step environmental review process lies ahead, along with finalizing engineering and station plans along the corridor and collaborating with the cities along the route. A 26-member Anti-Displacement Work Group, which includes area residents and business owners, is providing input, feedback and recommendations on strategies to prevent displacement and build community prosperity along the route.