About a month ago, residents of Lyn Park in north Minneapolis learned the Blue Line light-rail extension could split their predominately Black neighborhood in two.
That didn't sit well among residents of the middle-class enclave just north of Target Field, who say light rail will be noisy and dangerous and depress the value of their homes. On Tuesday evening, about a hundred people directed their anger at the Metropolitan Council during a tense, three-hour meeting at Shiloh Temple.
"Ladies and gentlemen, here we go again," said resident Ken Rance. "This will be another Rondo."
Rance and others on Tuesday frequently evoked Rondo, the Black neighborhood in St. Paul that was wiped out beginning in the 1950s when Interstate 94 was built. Its destruction has been a source of trauma in the community ever since.
After nearly two years of study, Met Council and Hennepin County planners announced the new route for the Blue Line extension last month, choosing West Broadway in north Minneapolis instead of Lowry Avenue. The line will ultimately connect the Mall of America to Brooklyn Park, also serving Robbinsdale and Crystal along the way.
Before it can be built, the new route will need final approval from the Met Council, Hennepin County and every city along the line, including Minneapolis. The Blue Line extension is slated to begin construction in 2025, with passenger service starting in 2028.
The new configuration comes after the council abandoned a previous $1.5 billion iteration that largely avoided the heart of north Minneapolis and called for eight of the line's 13 miles to be shared with BNSF Railway freight trains. Years of negotiations with the Texas-based rail giant proved futile, so a different plan was devised.
This one calls for light-rail trains to travel along Lyndale Avenue from Target Field, with a stop at Plymouth Avenue station, which would serve the V3 Sports center, Minnesota Workforce Center and the Hennepin County Human Services Center.
The alternative — preferred by many Lyn Park residents — would run trains along Washington Avenue from Target Field and turning onto West Broadway, avoiding Lyndale altogether.
But Dan Soler, senior program administrator at Hennepin County, said the Lyndale option was the only route that didn't require the acquisition of single-family homes. The Washington Avenue option is mostly commercial and industrial, he said, and isn't near as many regional destinations. Soler assured residents Tuesday that it's not too late for the route to change, but he couldn't make any promises.
But running north- and southbound light rail trains along Lyndale, hemmed by a bike lane and sidewalks, means some Lyn Park homes will fall within close proximity of light rail — too close, they say.
"Basically light rail will be within 50 feet of my bedroom," said Lyn Park resident Will Harding, noting residents are also concerned about the proximity of a senior center and three schools to light-rail trains. He and others questioned whether fire and emergency vehicles could navigate around light-rail trains to access Lyn Park homes.
Once the council made its decision in mid-April, a series of community meetings along the Blue Line's route were planned — only Lyn Park wasn't included, another source of frustration for the community. On Wednesday, the council said it was extending the comment period to May 27.
Bernie Glover, who bought his Lyn Park home in 1978, said "it's the same old game and it's always the same. Whenever you look at a highway, a street car, railroad tracks, you find a Black community."
"I'm 85 years old and built this house," the Selma, Ala., native said. "And now they're ready to put railroad tracks in my backyard."