Nearly five months after it was voted down, a resolution of support for a proposed rail line through Golden Valley has made another stop at city hall.
The Golden Valley City Council discussed a revised resolution of support for the Bottineau Transitway Locally Preferred Alternative Nov. 13 at city hall. More than 30 people, ranging from citizens to elected officials, attended the city council/manager meeting, which had to be moved to the council chambers due to the oversize crowd.
No public comments were taken on the transit proposal.
The city will host a forum event 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the council chambers. A vote on the resolution will come on a later date. More information on the project will be posted on the city’s website.
The review resulted from Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council asking Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris to reconsider the resolution. The council’s voted against the resolution June 19, when it was defeated with a 3-2 vote (with Council Members Paula Pentel, DeDe Scanlon and Joanie Clausen voting against it).
While the city declined to support the resolution, a June 20 letter to Brent Rusco, the Bottineau Transitway Study Manager, from Golden Valley City Manager Tom Burt said that the city would continue to be engaged with the draft environmental impact study. That draft study could be released later this year, and a final version (prepared after public meetings) could come out next year.
The original resolution was a template sent to the city by Hennepin County, said Golden Valley City Planner Joe Hogeboom. A revised version was distributed, and other possible changes discussed, at the Nov. 13 meeting.
“The council modified it to be more specific to Golden Valley and to their specific concerns,” Hogeboom said.
Those include the route’s affect on natural areas and surrounding properties. Station location also is a concern. Potential Golden Valley stations for the D-1 alignment are Golden Valley Road near Wirth Parkway and Plymouth Avenue near Wirth Parkway.
Cities that have passed the resolution for D-1 alignment, the “locally preferred alternative” route, include Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Robbinsdale and Minneapolis. According to a fact sheet produced by Hennepin County, “Trains or buses would run every 7.5 minutes during rush hours, every 10 minutes during the daytime and evening, and every 30 minutes during late night and early morning periods” when the line is running.
A 2010 analysis conducted by the county estimated that up to 24,000 people could use the line per day by 2030. Construction costs are estimated at nearly $900 million, with annual operating costs of around $14 million. More than half of the construction cost would come from the federal government.
Concerns and consent
Objections from Golden Valley focus on the proposed D-1 alignment, which aims to start in Brooklyn Park and end in downtown Minneapolis, crossing through Golden Valley along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad corridor adjacent to the Mary Hills Nature Area and Theodore Wirth Park.
The Bottineau Transitway Policy Advisory Committee voted May 30 to recommend the D-1 alignment, and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority voted June 26 to recommend the D-1 alignment as its choice for the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA).
The Metropolitan Council is looking for unanimous support on the LPA in order to move forward. So far, that support hasn’t come from Golden Valley.
The cities involved must give municipal consent in order for the project to occur. That consent, according to Metropolitan Council representative Jim Brimeyer, is independent from approval of the resolution of support.
Current Met Council policy calls for full municipal approval and support for a project to proceed, and the city could say “no” all the way up until preliminary engineering work is underway, he said.
“We don’t intend to change that policy,” Brimeyer said at the Nov. 13 meeting. “I’ve looked at your resolution. In terms of issues, they are all manageable. It can’t be any worse than what we went through on Excelsior and Grand.”
Council Member Joanie Clausen expressed concerns that a proposed draft environmental impact study would not be a true and open study. Brimeyer replied that it would have to meet federal guidelines and “be balanced.”
“Don’t forget – you’ll be involved as part of the citizens advisory committee,” he said. “I expect if I am still in this job if this gets to that point, I’ll be hearing from you.”
According to Hennepin County Commissioner Jen Callison, a draft environmental impact study would determine the project’s forecasted impact, but the city would ultimately retain the right to say yes or no to the project.
“I want you be to assured that Hennepin County wants to work with you as partners,’ she said. “We want to work with you to mitigate (impacts).”
Later in the meeting Clausen (on her own initiative, as she later clarified) said she would be willing to sign off on the draft environmental impact study to “put everything on the table,” but said she would not do it until Golden Valley gets Hennepin County 911 service.
Council Member Paula Pentel said that as much as she would like to see 911 services picked up from the county, “That sort of horse-trading strikes me as not the way we have done politics in Golden Valley.”
Harris disagreed, saying that having the county pick up 911 services would enhance safety.
“This would enhance security a little more,” he said. “If we are going to have a line like this going through our community, it’s appropriate that residents and visitors are protected. If we have a good 911 dispatch service, I will be more comfortable going ahead with the D-1 alignment.”
Golden Valley’s 911 dispatch services are currently provided by Edina. Separation of those services, City Manager Tom Burt said, would require a one-year notice.
“If we think this is a good idea, it’s a good idea,” Pentel said, referring to the transit proposal. “To tie it to dispatch troubles me. I would rather bring it back on board because it is a good idea on its own, and that we have looked out for the best interest of the community. Having said that, I struggle with supporting this as the preferred alternative. I feel that Golden Valley was left out of the discussions.”
According to Callison, the 911 dispatch issue is “not that simple.”
“We have an old facility in Golden Valley that has only so much capacity,” she said. “To think that in a month or two we are going to add Golden Valley’s calls … this is a more complex issue than tying these two together. I don’t understand how (asking for) that is good decision-making. I just want to raise a concern about that. We supply dispatch to other communities, and we have obligations to them as well.”
“I don’t agree that (911 service capacity) is so tight,” said Council Member Mike Freiberg, “If capacity is so tight, Hopkins would not have gotten (911 dispatch services) before us.”
Pentel later said she was ready to make a motion to hear the Bottineau proposal “unlatched” from dispatch, on its own merits.
There is no firm deadline for passage of the support resolution, Burt said.
“It is a rolling applications that the Metropolitan Council makes to the federal government,” Burt said. “They have asked us to do something by year-end, but nothing is really pushing it that way. It’s a matter of how fast the council wants to move.”