Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bottineau Light-rail Transit

The wheels on the bus rapid transit (BRT) may not go round, depending on the results of a study requested by the Bottineau Boulevard Partnership.

At its March 23 meeting, the partnership decided to stop looking solely at BRT for Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81), which is now being reconstructed.

A resolution was passed to take a look at light rail transit (LRT) and other alternatives for two years.

“I think we deserve the best new transportation alternative that’s available,” said Hennepin County District 1 Commissioner Mike Opat. “If that means we have to press the pause button and take a new look, then I think that’s what we should do.”

A number of changes have occurred, causing local officials, many of whom serve as partnership members, to look at the corridor differently.

“With BRT you can be more specific about how you move people around; with LRT you’re really moving people over greater distances,” Crystal Mayor ReNae Bowman said.

Opat said when looking at BRT lines around the country, there is no clear definition of what BRT means. In some cities, BRT lines are included within normal traffic, as opposed to the buses having their own lanes, he said.

On a trip to Los Angeles to review their BRT system, where there is no separate lane for the buses, it took 90 minutes to go 15 miles, Opat said.

“That’s not ‘rapid’ to me,” he said.

In comparison, “light rail is on its own right of way, faster, cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing, quieter,” Opat said.

The proposed Target Corporation campus is another factor to consider when looking at the option of LRT, said Brooklyn Park Mayor Steve Lampi.

The Target campus would require moving 20,000 to 30,000 employees in and out of Brooklyn Park every day, Lampi said, adding that LRT has the ability to move more people.

Development and redevelopment are other goals of the partnership, Lampi said.

“Development along the LRT line is significantly greater than along a BRT line,” Lampi said.

The Hiawatha Line, which connects downtown Minneapolis, the VA Medical Center, Fort Snelling, Minneapolis International Airport and the Mall of America, has also caused a lot of attention to be turn to LRT.

“It has been so successful and the ridership far exceeds what they thought it would be,” said Robbinsdale Mayor Mike Holtz.

Since 2000, the partnership has been working on “promoting commuting solutions” and “strategic redevelopment supported by transit,” according to their website,

$20M from the Legislature

In 2002, $20 million was bonded by the Legislature to help fund “a complete stand-alone busway” along Bottineau Boulevard, said partnership counsel Louis Smith.

“We need to ask … our legislators to help us earmark some of that money to help us with the alternative analysis,” Opat said.

The partnership has suggested the Legislature dedicate $1 million in funding for an alternative analysis.

Because the bonds were not made available until 2005, the Legislature extended the bonding authorization until 2010, Smith said, “but it’s specifically for the busway purposes.”

The $20 million would be available for other uses, “only if the Legislature does something further to change that authorization,” Smith said.

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