We all think Golden Valley is a wonderful place, but we should never forget that for the other 99.3 percent of the people living in the Twin Cities metro area, Golden Valley is drive-through country—just a sign on the freeway. Our town is chopped and blocked by major thoroughfares—I-394, Highway 100 and Highway 55. For instance, South Tyrol Hills, a small, bucolic and thoroughly delightful part of our fair city, cannot be reached by car without leaving Golden Valley; it takes time, gas and a pretty good GPS to get there, even if you know it exists.
Golden Valley could also become ride-through country for folks living in Robbinsdale, Maple Grove, Brooklyn Park, Osseo and other northern suburbs all the way up to Rogers, who want a quick and cheap way to get downtown. One proposal for the new Bottineau light rail line would route it up the railroad corridor that runs along the east side of Theodore Wirth Park, then northwest through the northeastern part of the city, and on into Robbinsdale. These tracks, by the way, slice another Golden Valley neighborhood from the rest of the city. They also run past a very nice and little-known nature area, lake and wetland, which buffers the neighborhood north of Golden Valley Road and east of Noble from the tracks.
The other proposed route for the Bottineau line would run it from Robbinsdale through north Minneapolis—down Broadway to Penn Avenue, and then to Highway 55 and into downtown, bypassing Golden Valley altogether. Both options include a station at Highway 55 and Penn.
The plan for the Golden Valley route calls for a station either on Plymouth Avenue just east of the Wirth Park chalet, or under the bridge that goes over the railroad tracks on Golden Valley Road near St. Margaret Mary Church. The GV Road station would have no parking lot.
If you have read this far, a couple of things have probably occurred to you by now. First, both stations are a long way from the vast majority of Golden Valley residents. In fact, for anyone living south of Highway 55, the station at Highway 55 and Penn would be closer, and much easier to get to, than the Golden Valley Road station. Even those who are close to a Golden Valley Road station would have to hike up and down hills and stairs to get to it. And let’s face it, nobody in Golden Valley is close enough to walk to a station on Plymouth Avenue and Wirth Parkway. Bottom line: if you live in Golden Valley, neither station is particularly attractive. Second, light rail trains going by every few minutes are a noisy nuisance for people who live near the tracks, and would essentially ruin the character of a wonderful nature area.
So why should Bottineau be routed through Golden Valley rather than north Minneapolis? Well, it will probably be a faster ride, thus attracting more riders from points north. There will be less disruption of north Minneapolis, since it will go down an existing railroad corridor. It may be cheaper to build (but maybe not—the route goes through a wetland with bad soil, and would require two new tracks and changing the existing tracks). Also, even though no politician will say this out loud, it will avoid going through a very tough part of town, which could scare off suburban riders. (Never mind that folks in north Minneapolis need public transit a lot more than most people in Golden Valley). Don’t be surprised if there is a full-court press for the Golden Valley option from the Hennepin County Commission and the city of Minneapolis. Where our City Council stands on the issue remains to be seen.
Light rail transit is controversial in itself, and there is no need to get into all the pros and cons here. But it should be pointed out that none of the benefits touted for light rail—even if they do come to pass—will benefit Golden Valley. It will not spur economic growth in Golden Valley: St. Margaret Mary isn’t going away anytime soon, and even if it did, this site is not right for commercial development. It will not provide Golden Valley residents a good transportation option—few will use it. Why should they, with no parking, downtown so close and a station in Minneapolis closer for many? And it will not reduce traffic congestion in Golden Valley. At best (and this is dubious) it might slow the growth of congestion on Highway 100 a little bit, but not enough that anyone in Golden Valley will notice, and it would happen whether the line runs through Golden Valley or not.
So, what do we get? Well, we might get a station with a sign on it that might say “Golden Valley,” to go along with our nice freeway signs. We will get trains running through the woods and past neighborhoods every few minutes. We will also get a tax bill—be it federal, state, county or city, we will end up paying. (See the article in the StarTrib on Jan. 21 about Anoka County and the Northstar Commuter line—a sobering tale for communities along a train line they don’t use much). We won’t even get the convenience that the highways provide during non-rush hours.
No, Bottineau will be just another case of people from somewhere else making noise and a mess in our community while they are going somewhere else. We live with enough of that now, and we sure don’t need more of it.