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Blue Line extension wins $1.2M federal grant

Janice Bitters//October 26, 2016

Blue Line extension wins $1.2M federal grant

Janice Bitters//October 26, 2016

The Metropolitan Council will receive a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to boost economic development along the planned Blue Line Extension light rail transit line, also known as the Bottineau.

The grant comes from the FTA’s Transit-Oriented Development Planning Pilot program through a competitive application process. Sixteen organizations around the nation received nearly $15 million this year, but the fact that the $1.496 billion Twin Cities line was on the list speaks volumes, said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat.

“I look at it as an endorsement by the federal government of the Bottineau line and all the work we’ve done,” he said. “It’s a stamp of approval; it’s a vote of confidence.”

Opat is a major advocate for the 13.5-mile line between downtown Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park. The line is expected to improve equity in the region by traveling through some of the most transit-dependent communities in the Twin Cities, he said.

Other partners in using the grant for station-area planning and development initiatives are Hennepin County and the five cities along the routeMinneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park.

The program is meant to attract new business opportunities, jobs and housing to transit corridors while reducing gentrification through residential and commercial displacement, according to the FTA.

The Met Council and Hennepin County are still planning how best to use the funds, Lucy Galbraith, Metro Transit’s director of transit-oriented development, said in a statement last week.

“Final outcomes will include [transit-oriented development] policies and zoning codes, infrastructure plans, housing and economic development strategies, and financing strategies,” she said.

Opat said the grant will allow the cities, county and Met Council to build on existing station-area plans and offer more public engagement sessions.

The program allows the federal agency to “partner with forward-leaning communities with plans to develop around transit options that connect hardworking families to jobs, education and opportunity,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement this month.

Last month, the FTA gave its final environmental approval for the Blue Line Extension project. The Met Council is working toward finishing 60 percent of the design work and planners expect to finalize that work by the end of 2017.

The Met Council will seek $150 million from the Minnesota Legislature next year to stay on schedule for a 2021 opening.

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