The Northfield City Council voted this week to pursue the Q-block for the development of the transit hub, following a recent city staff recommendation and a study that picked the site over Laurel Court and Babcock Park.

The city will now have to work with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration to make the site work, putting to use $277,200, which was earmarked for the project in 2006.

Residents and council members at the Dec. 4 meeting expressed concerns on historical preservation of the railroad depot, bicycle and pedestrian accessibility, including construction of paths leading to the hub, and sufficient parking.

The Q-block site, west of Hwy. 3 between West Second and West Third streets, is tight, which means parking spots may be shifted or sacrificed to make the depot fit.

“[MnDOT’s] primary consideration is being able to get buses in and out of site and getting the shelter in place,” said City Engineer Joe Stapf at the meeting.

He said that parking seems to be more of a local issue and gave examples of how the layout might look.

The Save the Northfield Depot group, which endorsed the Q-block site pick, will most likely be involved with the process, as they have an agreement with the city that City Attorney Chris Hood said suggests such a collaboration.

The FTA grant has put some pressure on the project, as progress must be made by the end of the year for it to be used, according to Stapf.

Laurel Court was a previous option, but the federal organization rejected it, restarting the process.

To re-do the site selection, the city has spent more than $86,000 to have an outside consultant conduct a study, in addition to an indeterminate amount of staff time, according to city staff.

“We need to be very mindful, not only of free money, but the cost of free money,” Mayor Mary Rossing said. “I believe that it was a really robust and rigorous process the first time. I’m saddened that we had to go through this again.”

Rossing was the sole dissenting vote, as she said she preferred the Babcock Park site.

Reach reporter Kaitlyn Walsh at 645-1117, and follow her on @NFNKaitlyn.

Reach reporter Kaitlyn Walsh at 645-1117, and follow her on @NFNKaitlyn.

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