Crystal tacitly approves light rail plans

City council votes to take no action on plans; effectively a ‘yes’ vote

The Crystal City Council OKed – sort of – initial plans for the Blue Line Extension light rail line Feb. 29.

The council approved a resolution by a 4-2 vote that officially takes no action for its “municipal consent” vote, a decision that is effectively a “yes” vote as far as state law and the Metropolitan Council are concerned. Voting in favor were council members Elizabeth Dahl, Jeff Kolb, Olga Parsons, and Mayor Jim Adams. Voting against were council members Laura Libby and Casey Peak. Councilmember Julie Deshler was not present at the meeting.

Members of the Crystal City Council discuss "municipal consent" for the planned Blue Line Extension light rail project. More than one council member said they were opposed to the project as a whole and were frustrated with the "three 'yes'es" they could give to the project. (Sun Post staff photo by Joe Bowen)
Members of the Crystal City Council discuss “municipal consent” for the planned Blue Line Extension light rail project. More than one council member said they were opposed to the project as a whole and were frustrated with the “three ‘yes’es” they could give to the project. (Sun Post staff photo by Joe Bowen)

Even without giving explicit “yes” vote approval, the council’s decision approves approximately the first 15 percent of the light rail plans: the alignment of the tracks, the location of the station, parking lot sizes and locations, and other broad strokes.

The council’s decision happened after about an hour of discussion where every member but Libby made it clear that they were not in favor of the line in the first place, and some objected to the process by which light rail planners work with cities and receive their consent for the project. Dahl said she wanted to choose the best possible “no” vote in a “scenario of ‘yes’es.” Per state law, the council could take no action, which would be be considered tacit approval for the project; it could vote “no” and create a list of reasons why it voted that way which would go back to the Met Council for consideration; or it could vote “yes.”

The approved resolution includes language that codifies city leaders’ misgivings about project elements that planners say will be addressed further on in the project’s planning process. Several council members pushed hard for a pedestrian bridge, for instance, and felt that a previous decision at a corridor management committee meeting to eventually include one in the project’s “scope” didn’t go far enough.

“I’d love to trust that it’s going to be built and it’s going to be part of the scope,” Kolb said of the bridge. “But it also makes it very difficult to make an affirmative vote. I’m telling other people to trust me because I’m trusting somebody else.”

Peak advocated for an outright “no” vote as a means of prompting the Met Council to address the city’s concerns.

“It’s our only way to ensure that these things are added,” he said.

Libby advocated for an outright “yes” vote as part of her broader support for the light rail project.

“I can’t imagine that this project would go forward and not have the sound barriers and visual barriers,” she said.

Other councilmembers said they were uncomfortable voting yes unless requested design elements like the bridge and noise walls were included in the project, which project staff said will be determined further down the “line,” so to speak.

Project Manager Dan Soler said planners will consult the city throughout the process and have similar milestones when the project’s design is deemed 30, 60, 90, and 100 percent complete. The city only votes once on municipal consent, however – at the 15 percent mark.

“Municipal consent plans are not meant to cover every particular option,” Soler said.

The project’s corridor management committee is scheduled to determine whether or not to include the pedestrian bridge at a meeting this summer.

Contact Joe Bowen at [email protected]

  • Sean Fahey

    Why not vote ‘no’ to consent and work with the Met Council to have your concerns addressed? This is why municipal consent exists. Then you can feel good about the ‘yes’ vote. Problem solved.

  • care4mn

    There are many major flaws in the design of this project that cannot be fixed with minor tweaks. Therefore the project is unacceptable at any percentage of the design. Creating a rail line with at grade crossings in densely populated, urban districts is just one example. This design will, increase congestion as has happened on both the Hiawatha and Greenlines. It will increase congestion on Highway 55 from Golden Valley into Minneapolis.

    The design in Crystal disrupts and increases congestion at the
    busiest intersection in Crystal. It runs through fully developed residential areas destroying home values, privacy of homeowners and adds noise, lighting and vibration for 21 hours a day.

    Our Councilmembers refused to accept the premise that created the process of Municipal Consent and forced a vote with only 3 options. None of which reflected the consent of residents to this project. It is a poorly located, badly designed project that will fail.