Maplewood mayor considering withdrawing city support for Purple Line transit project
During a city council meeting Monday, the mayor of Maplewood proposed a motion to withdraw city support for the Purple Line mass transit project.
Mayor Marylee Abrams reminded councilmembers of the June meeting they had with the Metropolitan Council, at which time, they heard the Purple Line would need to be re-routed due to the city of White Bear Lake withdrawing their support.
Abrams stated that the council was told there would be public engagement meetings in Maplewood, specifically, to discuss the re-routing. However, Abrams said those meetings the Metropolitan Council agreed to hold in August and September in Maplewood have not yet happened.
Abrams claimed, during Monday’s meeting, that at the end of September, she reached out to a Metropolitan Council Purple Line project manager about the proposed new routing. She claims she was told the Purple Line would need to be re-routed because it doesn’t currently qualify as a federally-viable project.
Abrams said she learned during that conversation that the new route would run through the Birch Run Station shopping center and that the Metropolitan Council planned to condemn the property, buy out leases and pay for the relocation of businesses; in other words, a “public taking of private property in the city of Maplewood.”
The mayor said she also learned the Maplewood Mall Transit Center would need to be torn down and rebuilt on a smaller scale as part of the re-routing. Abrams also said she learned two St. Paul stations were being dropped from the plan.
Abrams said she supports transportation for the east metro, but that “what we don’t need is a large, expensive public infrastructure project that doesn’t work for our community.” She added, “We need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what that might look like.”
In an email, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Council sent 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS a statement that read in part:
“Planning for the Purple Line started more than 20 years ago and continues today with participation from many partners, including leadership from each corridor city and Ramsey County. This broad participation – both formal and informal – provides all stakeholders a chance to raise questions and concerns that can be addressed during the planning process, ultimately leading to an outcome that has the widest possible support.”– Drew Kerr, Metropolitan Council
Other Maplewood councilmembers shared their thoughts during the meeting Monday.
Councilmember William Knutson, who submitted a statement for consideration, said, in part, “considering the magnitude of the public investment in the Purple Line, we want transportation that meets our needs. We want an open process to reset the future routing and methods (of) the Purple Line, whereby everyone is included in the revisioning. We expect the Met Council to develop a task force, including the five members already selected to represent Maplewood citizenry, to also include businesses and elected officials along the proposed routes.”
Councilmember Kathleen Juenemann expressed disappointment, saying she understands the need for mass transit in the east metro but that “when they (Met Council) were in front of us in June, there was no indication that they would leap into something like this without even saying anything to us.”
Councilmembers ultimately agreed to revisit the topic on Oct. 24 as a formal agenda item in order to discuss whether the city would withdraw support for the Purple Line.
Mayor Abrams said that during that Oct. 24 meeting, the public is invited to “share constructive thoughts on Maplewood’s future transportation needs.”
“We all have to get involved into what that’s going to be,” Abrams said.
Read the statement from the Metropolitan Council below:
“Planning for the Purple Line started more than 20 years ago and continues today with participation from many partners, including leadership from each corridor city and Ramsey County. This broad participation – both formal and informal – provides all stakeholders a chance to raise questions and concerns that can be addressed during the planning process, ultimately leading to an outcome that has the widest possible support.
The route modification process that began earlier this year has continued our robust community engagement efforts, helping us identify and respond to concerns raised by all stakeholders. This includes having elected officials and community leaders serve on project committees that meet regularly, engaging in numerous public discussions with city officials, and ongoing coordination at a staff level.
As part of this work, Purple Line Project Director Craig Lamothe provided a thorough presentation to the City of Maplewood on June 27 and to the project’s Corridor Management Committee on September 16. We have been and continue to be in regular contact with elected officials and city staff.
A more advanced level of public engagement around route modifications, originally scheduled to occur in August and September, was delayed until we could provide more detailed information about route options. That engagement is now scheduled to begin in November.
Ultimately, our goal is to advance a broadly supported route recommendation in early 2023. Nothing has been finalized or decided yet. The next steps in this process include:
– Presenting route modification options to the project’s Corridor Management Committee (CMC) on November 10.
– A period of public review and comment from mid-November through the end of the year.
– Bringing a recommendation forward through the project’s committee process and seeking resolutions of support from municipal partners in early 2023.”– Drew Kerr, Metropolitan Council