The Southwest Light Rail alignment plan that includes a shallow tunnel under the Kenilworth Bike Path in Minneapolis passed the Metropolitan Council's Corridor Management Committee on Wednesday.
A committee of leaders from each of the five cities along the route between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis were not unanimous in their decision, with Minneapolis offering the lone "no" vote.
The Kenilworth Bike Path in Minneapolis runs through a quiet neighborhood between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, and the project has faced considerable opposition, including from Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
"When we are digging tunnels in an area with water flowing in so many different directions, I do not believe we have put to bed the question of what impact this could have on the chain of lakes," Rybak argued.
In order to preserve that popular bike and walking path, a portion of the line that will one day bring trains toward Eden Prairie would be buried underground.
Engineers plan to build two shallow tunnels on that section. The first would start just north of West Lake Street and emerge before the water channel connecting Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, and the second would take the train underground once more before coming up just before the Interstate 394 expressway.
Yet, Rybak fears digging tunnels 29 feet underground could disrupt the water table and may even effect the levels of the lakes in the area; however, the chair of the Met Council said that issue has already been studied by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.
"What they told us is they don't believe there is going to be any impact on the quality of the water, on the lake levels," Susan Haigh said.
Once city that is certainly in favor of the new route is St. Louis Park, because it eliminates a plan to reroute freight rail traffic into their borders. Residents there say they are glad 32 properties and a school playground will be spared.
"I have sympathy for the people in Kenilworth," Joe LaPray told FOX 9 News. "It doesn't make sense for them either, but this is the best choice they could have made with the limited options available at this time."
The entire project is on a very tight time schedule, and the final alignment plan will go before the full Met Council next Wednesday. After that, each individual city has 75 days to sign off, but any delays could cause construction costs to jump by $50 million.