County stares down MnDot over transit


For the last five months, Wright County has been at the center of a transit debate that has seemingly had no end – even when discussions have broken down. It began late last year when Sherburne County informed Wright County that it was pulling out of the River Riders transit program. Wright County was then told by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to align with the Trailblazer transit group based out of Glencoe.
From the start, Wright County officials had problems with Trailblazer, citing that it is the second most expensive transit system in the state (behind only the system on the Red Lake Indian Reservation) and that money is spent much too freely for the service provided. When negotiations between Wright County and Trailblazer stalled, the board was given an ultimatum from Trailblazer to either be in or out of the negotiations. The board approved negotiating with Trailblazer by a 3-2 vote. But, citing that the county board wasn’t in more unanimity of purpose for the program, Trailblazer halted negotiations with the county and began working with cities that use the River Rider program.
At the May 13 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners heard a presentation from Midwest Paratransit Services based out of Maple Grove, which not only could provide the county with a much less expensive transit program, but would be more centrally located to the heavy use areas of Wright County than Trailblazer.
However, the plan goes against the policy the Minnesota Department of Transportation has created and Mike Shadauer, who represented MnDOT at the board meeting, said it is trying to avoid stand-alone county transit systems and that this proposal would go against those stated goals.
More information appears in this week's Messenger.