More than two dozen Brooklyn Park homes along a proposed light-rail route will be spared after planners squeezed as much as 30 feet from the width of the project.
It’s a dramatic change after some fierce initial opposition to the Blue Line extension along W. Broadway.
The original plan called for razing homes and raised thorny questions about equity. Last year, Brooklyn Park Council Member John Jordan asked why Minneapolis residents were talking tunnels and other buffers along the Southwest line while Brooklyn Park’s only option was home demolition.
So how did planners slim it down? They started thinking about the LRT and the accompanying road widening as one project vs. two. Then, planners narrowed the median and took out some turn lanes. They lowered the speed limit from 40 to 35 miles per hour, allowing them to narrow the roadway.
“Our goal is if people want to stay there, we find a way for them to stay,” said Brent Rusco, a Hennepin County engineer.
The county will still need to take some lawns. If a homeowner near the tracks wants to be bought out, Rusco said that’s not out of the question.
The changes won’t shortchange amenities, planners say.
“It will still be a four-lane road. It will have LRT in the middle. It will have trees along the boulevard, sidewalks and paths,” said Blue Line Extension LRT project director Dan Soler. “It needs to be a partnership among all of us. … I hope we are on the right track.”
The 13-mile Blue Line Extension will link downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park. Its estimated time of arrival: 2021.
The City of Brooklyn Park still needs to approve the light-rail plan, and the design squeeze seems to be making it more palatable. Mayor Jeff Lunde has publicly supported it, but had pushed planners to come up with a better design.
“I am happy for the people who will not be losing their houses. That is a good thing. At the same time, it still doesn’t take away my angst,” Jordan said. “There are a lot of hitches that remain that cannot be solved.”