City Council denies Crosstown expansion consent

The City Council voted unanimously Sept. 3 to deny the state's request for municipal consent for the Crosstown reconstruction project because the commitment to bus rapid transit (BRT) on I-35W wasn't strong enough.

On April, 16 the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDoT) submitted plans to the city for the $201 million project, necessitating the September vote.

The project would reconstruct all lanes in the Crosstown and I-35W junction, widening it from six to 13 lanes in some places. The plans include extending carpool/bus lanes to 42nd Street and adding a station for bus riders to pick up highway buses at 46th Street.

The state's configuration, which reverts to the existing lane pattern north of 42nd street, "really moves the bottleneck from the Crosstown into South Minneapolis," said Transportation and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Sandra Colvin Roy (12th Ward).

Mayor R.T. Rybak said, in denying the state's request, the city is trying to create a better balance between transit and roads and ensure such a balance is funded. "It will work if transit is integrated. It wont work if it's just roads," he said.

City leaders are also concerned that MNDoT's environmental review for the project is inadequate.

City staff, residents and elected officials are already preparing for an anticipated increase in storm water due to the project. The city is seeks a more comprehensive review to address runoff and pollution concerns.

The matter now moves to State Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau, or, if a pre-2001 municipal consent law applies, the Metropolitan Council. Molnau or the Met Council can accept the city's conditions; if they reject them, the matter goes to a three-member arbitration panel.

The state can still reject the arbitration panel's finding, but what would happen next is unclear, said Crosstown Project Manager John Griffith. For projects on interstates such as I-35W, the state can proceed with its original plan. However, if the project involves a "trunk" highway such as the Crosstown, the state must accept the arbitration panel's recommendation or pull the project.

In such a scenario, the state would be expected to argue that the BRT controversy is focused on I-35W, giving it the final say; the city would argue that because the expansion involves the Crosstown, the arbitration panel would have more power.

For more information about the Crosstown project, visit projects.dot.state.mn.us/crosstown/overview.html.