The Metropolitan Council has received federal approval to begin designing the Blue Line extension, a 13-mile light-rail line that will connect Minneapolis to the northwestern suburbs of Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park.
Local rail supporters say the Blue Line extension, also known as the Bottineau line, is needed because traffic in the metro area’s northern tier is expected to increase in coming years. Planners expect the line to have 27,000 weekday riders by 2030.
“Without major transit investments, it will be difficult to effectively meet the transportation needs of people and businesses in the corridor, mitigate highway traffic congestion and achieve the region’s goal of doubling transit ridership by 2030,” said Met Council chairwoman Sue Haigh.
The line is expected to connect several key businesses, colleges and hospitals, retail centers and major transportation hubs such as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
It is a part of a bigger light-rail network planned for the region that includes the already operating Central and Hiawatha lines, as well as the controversial Southwest Corridor line, which will connect Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
“The Blue Line extension and the future Green Line extension [the Southwest Corridor] will help Minneapolis residents and those from northwest and southwest communities get to work and school, delivering on our promise of equity,” Haigh said. “Completion of these lines is the key to building a fully developed multimodal system to serve the people of this region.”
To proceed with the Blue Line extension, the Met Council, the project’s sponsor, will have to obtain final engineering approval, expected in late 2016, and approval of a full funding grant agreement, expected in 2018.
It also needs funding. About half of the project’s $997 million budget is expected to come from the Federal Transit Authority, 30 percent from the Counties Transit Improvement Board, and 10 percent from both Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota.
The Met Council, along with the state Department of Transportation, plan to ask legislators in 2015 for a dedicated source of funding for the project.
“Dedicated funding for transit will replace the state’s 10 percent share and send a clear signal to our federal partners that this region is committed to making both the Metro Green and Blue Line extensions a reality in the very near future,” Haigh said.