This month, the Metropolitan Council released the final environmental review for the Bottineau Blue Line light-rail project, a hefty document that details environmental adjustments that need to be made before the $1.54 billion line is built.
The public has until Aug. 15 to comment on the plan, which is available here: metrocouncil.org/blrt/feis.
My initial reporting concentrated on the effect that noise and vibrations from light-rail trains will have on the neighborhoods along the 13.5-mile line. But further study unearths other interesting tidbits, though none of them appears serious enough to affect the project.
A bit of background: The Bottineau line begins (or ends) at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, traveling through Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and ending at the Target North Campus in Brooklyn Park. All told, 11 stations are planned, and service is expected to begin in 2021.
And now for the fine print:
• Eight miles of the route will share right of way with BNSF track and trains. Known as "common corridor operations," this setup isn't unusual across the country, the study notes, including transit systems in suburban New Jersey, Charlotte, N.C., Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Jersey City, Los Angeles, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Jose, suburban Maryland, and Portland, Ore. Safety measures to protect the corridor are planned, including "corridor protection walls" between freight and light rail cars.
• Building the line means the Met Council will have to acquire 292 parcels of land, 14 of them total acquisitions and 278 partial. One residential property will be acquired, as well as 13 commercial/industrial buildings.
• According to U.S. census data, 14 percent of the households in the Bottineau area do not own a vehicle, nearly double the metro-area average of 8 percent. In some areas of north Minneapolis, the number of zero-car households is higher than 35 percent; and more than 20 percent in areas of New Hope and Brooklyn Park.
• Commuter rail (bigger trains with limited service that often share track with freight rail) was considered instead of LRT but was not advanced because it did not serve north Minneapolis or Robbinsdale.
• The prediction for the line's average daily boardings of 26,859 ranges from the highest (3,517) at the Robbinsdale station to 229 at the Plymouth Avenue stop.
• BNSF operates four to eight freight trains a week on its existing track, usually at the maximum speed of 25 mph. During peak operations in previous years, up to five trains a day used the corridor. Future freight operations could increase or decrease based on the BNSF's needs.
• About half the 500 trees along the median of Olson Hwy. would be removed during construction. Some may be replanted on Minneapolis park property.
• Park-and-ride facilities are planned for Golden Valley Road, Bass Lake Road, 63rd Avenue and Oak Grove Parkway.
• Olson Hwy. will continue to span six lanes, but the width of those lanes will be reduced to 11 feet — now they're 12 feet or more. That's supposed to reduce the time it takes to cross the highway. In addition, the posted speed limit will be reduced to 35 mph from 40. Sidewalks will be replaced on both sides of the highway and expanded to 6 feet from 5 feet. Space on the north side of the highway will be provided for a 10-foot bicycle track between Thomas Avenue and Van White Memorial Boulevard. But, the report notes, that will be "constructed by others."