Supplemental EIS Preparation Notice
The METRO Blue Line Extension light rail project is continuing to work on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In 2016, the Metropolitan Council had published a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Determination of Adequacy, based on the preferred project route at that time. Since then, the project has pivoted away from portions of the original route, requiring this Supplemental EIS.
The Supplemental EIS will focus on changes to the project based on the identification of the METRO Blue Line Extension recommended route. The full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts will be evaluated in the Supplemental EIS as were presented in the 2016 Final EIS.
In October 2022, the project had published a Preparation Notice in Minnesota Environmental Quality Board Monitor, which is a state level publication. The project is now completing a Notice of Intent (NOI) step, which is a parallel Federal step where the NOI is published in the Federal Register. The purpose of publishing this NOI is to alert interested parties regarding the intent to prepare the Supplement EIS; to provide information on the nature of the proposed changes to the project since the 2016 FEIS; to invite public participation in the Supplement EIS process, including comments on the scope of the SEIS proposed in this NOI; and to announce that public and agency meetings on the proposed modifications to the Project will be conducted.
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Supplemental EIS) for the METRO Blue Line Light Rail (LRT) Extension Project.
Description / scope of Supplemental EIS
The BLRT Extension is a light rail transit project located in the cities of Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Robbinsdale, and Minneapolis. In 2016, the Metropolitan Council published a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Determination of Adequacy, based on the preferred project route at that time. Since then, project partners have undertaken a process to modify the proposed route to avoid using freight rail rights-of-way. The route modification process was documented in a draft report, available for public review and comment, and a final report published in April 2022. In June 2022, project sponsors (Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County) identified the final recommended route to advance in design and environmental review: West Broadway Avenue in Brooklyn Park to Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81), Bottineau Boulevard in Crystal and Robbinsdale to West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis, connecting to Target Field Station in downtown Minneapolis. The scope of the METRO Blue Line Extension Supplemental EIS is generally described below; a no-build option will be analyzed as well as required by environmental review rules.
West Broadway Avenue / Brooklyn Park
The proposed LRT elements including stations, park and ride, Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF), and track remain the same as in the 2016 FEIS and ROD. However, the reconstruction and expansion of West Broadway (from north of Brooklyn Boulevard to 93rd Avenue), which was previously studied as a separate project is being included in the SEIS.
The following paragraphs describe the proposed modified LRT alignment south of 73rd Avenue in Brooklyn Park.
Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81) / Southern Brooklyn Park and Crystal
In Southern Brooklyn Park and Crystal, the SEIS will evaluate a proposed modified LRT alignment on Bottineau Boulevard. The SEIS will evaluate proposed stations at 63rd Avenue and Bass Lake Road. The SEIS will also evaluate changes to Bottineau Boulevard needed to accommodate the proposed modified LRT alignment including a conventional at-grade intersection with a pedestrian bridge to access the station and a grade-separate elevated structure carrying Bottineau Boulevard over Bass Lake Road.
Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81) / Robbinsdale
In Robbinsdale, the SEIS will evaluate the proposed modified LRT alignment on Bottineau Boulevard. In addition, the SEIS will evaluate a proposed station in downtown Robbinsdale in the median of Bottineau Boulevard with a park-and-ride facility and a proposed station at Lowry Avenue near North Memorial Hospital. The proposed station at Lowry Avenue near North Memorial Hospital would be elevated over Oakdale Avenue, Theodore Wirth Parkway, and the southbound lanes of Bottineau Boulevard.
West Broadway Avenue or 21st Avenue / Minneapolis
In Minneapolis, the SEIS will evaluate a proposed modified LRT alignment on West Broadway Avenue between Lowry Ave and North Irving Avenue. East of North Irving Avenue, the Project will evaluate two proposed alignment options: an LRT option on West Broadway and an LRT option on 21st Avenue.
Lyndale Avenue or I-94 / Minneapolis
Further, two proposed modified alignment options to Target Field Station will be evaluated in the SEIS. Both of the proposed route options would connect to either 21st Avenue or West Broadway (see above) and travel over I-94 on a bridge. After crossing the bridge, the first proposed alignment would run on Lyndale Avenue to N 7th St. The other proposed alignment option would run along the east side of I-94 parallel to Washington Avenue and use 10th Avenue N to N 7th Street.
The Supplemental EIS will focus on potentially significant changes to the project based on the identification of the METRO Blue Line Extension recommended route. The full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts will be evaluated as was presented in the Final EIS (2016). A Supplemental Draft EIS (SDEIS) is anticipated in early 2024, and a with the Supplemental Final EIS (SFEIS) is anticipated in early 2025.
Responsible Governmental Unit
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Process
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) require that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be prepared for certain actions that affect the environment. The EIS provides a means to analyze environmental, social and economic factors and consider environmental impacts, alternatives and mitigation strategies in the planning and decision-making process.
The new recommended route requires the project team to prepare a new EIS. Between summer 2022 and spring 2023, the project team will prepare the new Draft EIS. During this phase, the environmental team will work closely with the engineering team to guide the design of the alignment and multiple design solutions and their relative impacts and benefits will be compared. After a public comment phase, the team will then prepare the Final EIS in summer 2023 to early winter 2023, which will update the social, economic, and environmental impacts to reflect the refined project design and finalize the mitigation commitments.
More information on the environmental documentation process as well as previously completed environmental documentation for the project can be found below.
Scoping documents were produced during the first step in the NEPA/EIS process. Scoping is designed to engage the public, interest groups, affected tribes and government agencies (including opportunities for public involvement) and to present the purpose and need for the project, the proposed alternatives to address the needs identified, and potential benefits and impacts for public and agency review early in the NEPA/EIS process. The scoping process for the METRO Blue Line Extension was managed by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA).
Draft Environmental Impact Statement
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) is the initial statement prepared by the project sponsor and circulated for review and comment before a Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) is prepared.
The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) was the project sponsor and Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU) through the completion of the DEIS. HCRRA published the Draft EIS and received comments on the DEIS from April 11, 2014 through May 29, 2014. Upon transfer of RGU authority from HCRRA to the Metropolitan Council, HCRRA transferred the comments received on the Draft EIS to the Metropolitan Council for analysis during Project Development.
Final Environmental Impact Statement
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Metropolitan Council published the project's Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) on July 15, 2016. The Final EIS identifies impacts from the Blue Line Extension Project, including measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate these impacts. The Final EIS also includes the Project’s Section 404 permit application, Amended Draft Section 4(f) and 6(f) Evaluation, Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement, and responses to comments received on the Draft EIS.