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Plans for Blue Line extension change after talks with BNSF break down

The public agencies have said they are no longer negotiating with BNSF Railway.

It's back to the drawing board for the Blue Line Light Rail extension project. 

Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council announced Monday they are no longer negotiating with BNSF Railway over the proposed $1.5 billion Bottineau Blue Line Light Rail extension.

The major freight rail company owns eight miles of the project's envisioned 13-mile route, and has repeatedly said it does not want to share its right of way with the light rail. 

"We believe this is a good outcome and we'll continue working with Met Council, Hennepin County and the state on the many areas we work together," said Courtney Wallace, a spokesperson for BNSF. 

The $1.5 billion Bottineau Blue Line light rail project would have linked downtown Minneapolis to the northern part of the city, as well as Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park beginning 2024. However, the potential route is now unclear. 

"We are frustrated and disappointed in this outcome, and we recognize the time and effort agency and community partners have invested in this project over many years," reads a statement from Hennepin County and the Met Council.

"We are optimistic that moving this project in a new direction presents an exciting opportunity to revisit and improve the METRO Blue Line Extension project to serve even more people and destinations, while maintaining as much of the existing alignment as possible."

Around $129 million in local and state funds has gone towards project, which has been in the works for more than 30 years. 

Suburban mayors close to the line and activists recently pushed for Gov. Tim Walz and others to move the project forward, with an emphasis on how increased transportation would improve accessibility and racial equity in the Twin Cities, the Star Tribune reported last week

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"The need for light rail that serves corridor cities, including North Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Brooklyn Park, is greater than ever," reads the joint statement from Hennepin County and the Met Council.

"The economic benefits the METRO Blue Line Extension will bring to these communities, the Twin Cities metro and the state of Minnesota cannot wait any longer. The communities this project will serve are the most diverse in the metro area and have the highest rates of transit-dependent households.

"People in these communities continue to be harmed by historic patterns of systemic racism that are compounded by a lack of transit and transportation infrastructure. Now, in the face of multiple crises disproportionately impacting communities of color, transformational investment is more urgent than ever." 

The project's Met Council committee will next meet Aug. 13. 

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