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Railroad’s objection throws future of Bottineau light rail in doubt

September 7, 2018

The proposed Bottineau light rail line is jeopardized by a major railroads objection to handing over its land for the project.

The Metropolitan Council on Friday pushed back the expected opening date for the line to 2024, after making little progress trying to open discussions with BNSF Railroad. The council wants to run light rail alongside BNSFs freight track for about 60 percent of the 13-mile trip from Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park.

The council updates the projects timeline in annual filings with the Federal Transit Administration the past date was 2022. But the regional agencys leader acknowledged that the situation may not improve, which would leave the project in limbo.

They have been really clear about saying that this project doesnt meet their interests, said Met Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff, referring to BNSF. So it may be that the status wont change and they wont be interested in the future.

She added that these discussions generally take time, citing extended negotiations with railroads over the Southwest line.

It does worry me, said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, a major supporter of the line. Opat said he wishes the issue had been addressed during discussions with BNSF over Southwest, which centered on 1.4 miles of the railroads land.

The railroad said in a statement Friday that it has raised concerns with the council for several years. Its vice president sent the council two letters earlier this year, stating their objection.

After reviewing the current plans earlier this year we communicated to Met Council we are not proceeding with any discussion of passenger rail in this corridor, company spokeswoman Amy McBeth said in a statement.

We believe the light rail project, which as proposed currently requires using BNSF property, is inconsistent with our passenger principles. It would restrict our ability to serve future Minnesota customers.

Eric Roper 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

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