Parking, safety and high-density housing weighed heavily on the minds of some Golden Valley residents Thursday night as they considered plans to build a new light-rail stop near their homes.
The Metropolitan Council has budgeted for the Bottineau light-rail line to stop just once beside Theodore Wirth Park, but wants public feedback on whether to build the station at Plymouth Avenue, Golden Valley Road or both.
The question raised some strong concerns for the neighbors of the stations, who fear it could have negative impacts on their quiet, low-density neighborhoods.
Minneapolis officials, meanwhile, have pushed for the Plymouth station partly because the line bypasses the heart of the North Side. The station is also adjacent to the chalet and golf course at Theodore Wirth Park, a popular recreation area.
Linda Jeske, who lives near the Golden Valley station, worries that the Met Council may build a park-and-ride there and attempt to take her home. Or, alternatively, not building one may cause riders to park on neighborhood streets at all hours.
“I’m concerned about the crime that comes along with it,” Jeske said. “The parking is really my issue. Nobody really is concerned, I don’t think, about having the light rail coming through.”
Sitting beside her was Vicki Coifman, a neighbor of the proposed Plymouth station. “We’re unhappy because we’re in a low-density area and I strongly feel that the people who really needed the line, who don’t have … cars, are east of Penn and they’re left behind on this,” Coifman said.
The line’s current 13-mile route follows Olson Hwy. out of downtown Minneapolis and travels north along the eastern edge of Theodore Wirth Park before heading to Brooklyn Park. An extension of the existing Blue Line, it is projected to open in 2021 at a cost of about $1 billion.
Planners also considered a route that would have followed Penn Avenue through north Minneapolis, which has a higher density of transit-dependent riders. The Penn route, which would have also stopped at North Memorial Medical Center, was deemed impractical by city and county staff partly because the street is not wide enough. Minneapolis agreed to support the Wirth Park route if Metro Transit and Hennepin County pledged to make other transit improvements on the North Side, which are now in the planning stages.
“I’m for LRT, however it is not serving the people who need it most where I live,” Coifman said. Added Jeske: “And where we live, either.”
Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris said he has also heard from many residents who support the Golden Valley station, however.
“They feel like it needs to be there … if we’re going to be part of a larger metropolitan area,” Harris said. “Unfortunately … people who are more opposed or who have greater concerns are more likely to come out when it’s a subzero degree night and express their opinion.”
One supporter of building both stations is north Minneapolis resident Randall Bradley, who sparred with skeptics during a small brainstorming session at the meeting. Bradley, an architect, served for eight years on the Minneapolis Planning Commission.
“I think north Minneapolis needs all four stations because they will grab north Minneapolis by the throat and drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” Bradley said. “North Minneapolis needs economic development. The light rail has proven to bring economic development.”
A number of Golden Valley neighbors, including Loren Overby, were startled last year to see maps produced by Hennepin County showing high-density housing where they live. Overby said rather than transportation, he believes the process is geared toward making money for developers and garnering federal money.
“The public transportation here is underutilized as it is,” Overby said. “We don’t need a station.”
But state Rep. Ray Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, said lack of available land makes development somewhat unlikely. “I would say that these two stops are not ripe stops for development,” Dehn said.
As for transportation value, Billy Binder, a former Minneapolis City Hall aide who lives more than a mile from the Golden Valley stop, said it will provide important connections. “It can connect us to the whole rest of the metro transportation system, including rides to the airport or downtown or … northwest to the Target campus,” Binder said.
A final decision on the stops will be made later this year, said Met Council spokeswoman Laura Baenen. If they choose to build both stations, the budget and scope of the Bottineau project would have to change.