Project planners generally felt improvements to intersection were enough
Crystal Mayor Jim Adams was miffed after Blue Line Extension light rail planners nearly-unanimously removed a pedestrian bridge from a slate of projects that were about to be added the light rail line's "scope."
The Blue Line’s corridor management committee approved a July 21 measure that did not include the hoped-for bridge that would have spanned County Road 81 near its intersection with Bass Lake Road. Project staff intend to build a light rail station there, and Crystal city officials insisted that the bridge be included in the project as a way of preventing pedestrians from crossing the busy county road at street level. The bridge was removed via an amendment shortly before a vote to add it and several other items to the project scope.
"The inclusion of a pedestrian bridge to provide a safe crossing of County Road 81 was a request that came directly from neighborhood residents during our community listening sessions," Adams said, referring to a series of meetings organized by Blue Line project staff last winter and earlier. "All the reasons they wanted to get rid of it weren’t part of the proposal."
City leaders had batted the bridge idea back and forth with light rail and Hennepin County officials, each seemingly hoping that another would pay for the bridge’s construction and maintenance. Several bridge designs were considered, too.
Crystal officials and light rail planners had seemingly brokered a deal wherein Metro Transit would pay for maintenance, the city would be responsible for snow removal, and the Met Council would pay for the construction of a bridge with ramps or stairs on either side rather than elevators, a key feature city council members had hoped for. Materials provided at the meeting indicate that the bridge would have cost about $12 million if it included elevators and about $7.5 million if it didn’t.
At the July 21 meeting, however, Met Council Member Lona Schreiber said she was concerned about public safety hazards similar to those at a transit hub in Brooklyn Center.
"I think it’s inviting more problems than the city has anticipated, and I don’t think it’s going to be as used as you think it might be, frankly," Schreiber said of the bridge.
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat said he thought the county’s already-planned street-level safety improvements would make the intersection with or without LRT."
"If LRT should come through, I think our improvements would be sufficient," Opat added, echoing sentiments expressed by other committee members. Those improvements include "refuge islands" for pedestrians and more safety signs.
Adams told the Sun Post that he was "blindsided" by Opat’s comments.
The vote to remove the bridge from the slate was taken via voice, and Adams was one of a handful of votes against.
Further north along the county road, Brooklyn Park city leaders expressed a prefernce for at-grade intersection improvements, rather than a bridge of their own, for pedestrian access to a planned station at 63rd Avenue North.
The Blue Line Extension is planned to go from Target Field in Downtown Minneapolis, east along Hwy. 55 through the Northside, and then share an existing Burlington Northern-Santa Fe rail corridor north and west as it travels through Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, and Crystal before turning straight north through Brooklyn Park and ending north of Hwy. 610.
Contact Joe Bowen at email@example.com