Just a few months ago, Matt Bruns began hearing rumors that the latest extension of light-rail service could mean trains traveling within feet of his condo building in Minneapolis' North Loop.
Later, he was appalled to discover the reports were true.
"Over the past 10 years, all the development and growth in the North Loop has been incredible," said Bruns, a health care analyst who often works from home. "I can't imagine leaving,"
But he and others believe that squeezing light-rail trains along 10th Avenue N. will further snarl traffic and imperil pedestrians in the distinctively urban neighborhood.
After the Metropolitan Council reworked the route of the Blue Line Extension to appease Lyn Park residents and businesses in north Minneapolis, the new route endorsed earlier this month by a key advisory committee now calls for trains to move through the North Loop.
"Overall, we have a lot of support for the new alignment," said Christine Beckwith, project director for the Blue Line light-rail extension, which is slated to connect downtown Minneapolis with Brooklyn Park beginning in 2030.
But she acknowledged that pockets of resistance remain and noted much planning work still needs to be done.
"We've talked to residents," she said. "They have questions that deserve to be answered."
What does one do when plans are revealed for a transportation megaproject in your neighborhood? Some cheer, others accept the inevitable and a few will craft strategies to stop it.
That usually involves distributing petitions and fliers, meeting with elected officials and transit planners, and combing through complicated project documents to figure out where things stand in their wake.
Which is what Bruns and others have done in recent weeks, as plans for the Blue Line Extension ramped up. The epicenter of the resistance is the 918 Lofts, a former mouthwash factory bordering 10th Avenue that was converted to condos in 2004.
"I feel like we will be the sacrifice," said Pedro Wolcott, a resident of the 918 Lofts and chef/owner of the nearby restaurant Guacaya Bistreaux.
Original plans for the Blue Line light-rail extension, which called for trains to largely follow BNSF freight tracks, were scrapped in 2020 after the rail giant declined to negotiate with the Metropolitan Council.
Transit planners then pitched a new route through the heart of transit-dependent north Minneapolis, which had not been included in previous plans. But that sparked protest among residents of Lyn Park, a suburban-like enclave along Lyndale Avenue, and businesses on W. Broadway.
So planners pitched another alignment that snakes east of Interstate 94, moving trains from Target Field Station, traveling north along N. 7th Street and along 10th Avenue between N. 4th Street and Washington Avenue.
Met Council officials concede the stretch along 10th Avenue is a tight squeeze and said they plan to study other options there, including a "transit mall" similar to the arrangement at the Green Line's East Bank Station serving the University of Minnesota. That would involve only light-rail trains and a bike and pedestrian path along 10th Avenue; another option calls for trains and one lane of traffic.
Residents worry about eliminating a busy east-west thoroughfare in the North Loop, and ask whether emergency vehicles would be able to navigate the narrow corridor.
"We support transit but we don't want it to harm our neighborhood," said Aileen Johnson, a North Loop resident who is part of the effort to cancel the 10th Avenue option. "This is a hugely walkable neighborhood and we want to preserve that."
The Met Council also will study an alternative that would move the tracks to a largely industrial area closer to Interstate 94, thus avoiding the North Loop. But Beckwith said the broader idea behind public transit is to serve as many people as possible.
"It's just good practice — we want to put these alignments where they serve people," she said.
Serving the most people is also critical to winning federal funding. An earlier iteration of the project put its price tag at $1.5 billion, but the current estimate won't be revealed until next year.
Concentrating on light rail
Some North Loop residents feel bus-rapid transit would be a less divisive option, a view shared by a group called SLR81 in Robbinsdale and Crystal that also opposes the Blue Line Extension. But for now, the Met Council is concentrating solely on light rail.
Over the next year, transit planners will hone the 13.4-mile route, gathering input from the public along the way. Once a plan is crafted, they will seek approval from Hennepin County and the cities along the route — Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park — in a process known as municipal consent.
Minneapolis City Council Member Michael Rainville said the new route was a "surprise," and that he'll be meeting with residents and businesses in the near future. The 10th Avenue area also is represented by Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who didn't respond to a request for comment last week. Ellison serves on the Blue Line Corridor Management Committee, which earlier this month voted in favor of the current alignment.
Beckwith said there will never be a perfect alignment that satisfies everyone. She noted their job is to evaluate how the line would affect traffic, parks, residents, businesses, noise and land use, among other factors.
"Our first choice is avoidance — to eliminate or minimize an impact — but the next step is looking at mitigation," she said, noting that some businesses along the Green Line were equipped with noise-abating windows when that link between St. Paul and Minneapolis was built more than a decade ago.
But Bruns said that train service every 15 minutes throughout the day and early evening will put the North Loop's unique character and beauty at risk. The quality of life and sense of community he says he cherishes at the 918 Lofts will surely change, he said — and not for the better.