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Blue Line extension progress seems to be stalling

Updated: June 26, 2019 11:05 PM

A push to extend light rail appears to have stalled.

The Bottineau Line is planned to expand the Blue Line from Target Field in downtown Minneapolis all the way to Brooklyn Park.

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It would add 11 stops over about 13 miles. But the engineering phase, planned for 2017 to 2018, is still going.

In a statement, Metropolitan Council spokesperson Kate Brickman said, in part: “Construction cannot begin until critical third party agreements have been reached, which include an agreement with BNSF Railway for shared use of its corridor. Those agreements are also required before the project can apply for federal funding, which has not yet happened.

"Met Council continues to work in partnership with the County and Federal Transit Administration to advance this important project.”

Brickman said there is no timeline for when those agreements could be met.  She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the Met Council has not had any conversations with BNSF about the project since April.

The railway company said in its statement: “Our position hasn’t changed. We’re not proceeding with any discussion of passenger rail in this corridor on our property. We communicated that again to Met Council during a meeting this spring.”

Businesses owners and residents in Robbinsdale, where one of the stops is proposed, are left in limbo.

“The Blue Line is kind of an ongoing joke because it takes so long to culminate,” said Tina Suglia, a Chamber of Commerce board member.

She also co-owns Nonna Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano.

“We struggle to get good quality staff,” she said. “There's a lot of people who would consider the position we would offer, whether it's back of house or front of house. But for them, a bus ride from South Minneapolis takes hours and multiple connections.”

Suglia said the Blue Line extension would make the commute easier and open up opportunities for the city.

“We’ve seen a really encouraging economic boom because everybody (is) anticipating the light rail access,” she said.

Now they just have to wait and see.

“It could happen or it could be a long time. It could be another generation out,” Suglia said. “We just don't know.”

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