There comes a time when you have to envision life without a partner. For Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council, that time is now. Officials on both sides have decided to rework the $1.5 billion Bottineau Blue Line light-rail project as BNSF continues to reject negotiation attempts to use its corridor.
Negotiations with the Class 1 company have been going on for years. Original plans for the Blue Line project called for using eight miles of BNSF-owned track. However, BNSF has never committed to sharing the right-of-way.
The line is supposed to link downtown Minneapolis to the north side of the city and suburbs Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park.
Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council released a statement on Aug. 3 announcing they were moving on from BNSF.
“Our commitment to the Metro Blue Line Extension LRT project has not changed,” said the statement from both parties. “We are frustrated and disappointed in this outcome, and we recognize the time and effort agency and community partners have invested in this project over many years. These investments will remain valuable. We look forward to working together to find ways to complete this project as soon as possible.”
The Blue Line was supposed to open in 2024, but the change in plans will most likely push the start time back. There has been about $129 million in local and state funds already committed to the project.
Leaders whose communities will benefit from the Blue Line are pushing officials to make it happen. The planned route includes some of the most impoverished and transit-dependent communities in the Minneapolis area.