Minneapolis vote gives green light to Southwest Light Rail - KMSP-TV

Minneapolis vote gives green light to Southwest Light Rail

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

The Minneapolis City Council Transportation and Public Works Committee will vote on design changes for the $1.6 billion Southwest LRT, and the full City Council will vote on municipal consent at its regular meeting on August 29.

At a meeting on Wednesday, council member Lisa Goodman warned about approving the rail line without an environmental impact statement, warning council members "you could be voting for something much worse down the line."

The committee will vote on a memo of understanding with the Metropolitan Council on the construction of the light rail, including the understanding that the Kenilworth corridor would remain a publicly-owned entity. A design compromise for the corridor eliminates a north shallow tunnel and adds a station at 21st Street.

The Southwest LRT would operate from downtown Minneapolis to St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie and would include 17 new stations and nearly 16 miles of double track, but residents near the Kenilworth corridor that divides the Kenwood neighborhood from Cedar Lake continue to voice concern over the use and design of the rail.

Usage concerns

Minneapolis residents are concerned over the Twin Cities and Western Railroad Company's use of the rail line at the Kenilworth corridor and are asking the City Council to ensure it is a publicly-owned entity.

TC&W is Minnesota's largest railroad, a 361-mile short line based in Glencoe. It owns no track in the Twin Cities but its rails start in the southwest suburbs and operate on track rights from other rail owners and carries mainly agricultural products toward the Mississippi River or the west coast. It once passed through what's now the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis -- passing north of Lake Calhoun before heading south of Highway 7 into Minnetonka. In the 1990s, the Hiawatha Avenue reconstruction cut the route between St. Paul and Minneapolis, and one of their options became the Kenilworth corridor connecting with TC&W's old route by Lake Calhoun. Now, residents are concerned about freight and passenger trains running on separate parallel tracks through the neighborhood.

In a letter to Mayor Betsy Hodges, residents said they're worried about the increasing likelihood of more train cargo passing through the city, including the potential for derailments and explosions. The line already transports ethanol, and residents contend in their letter “enormous pressure” has developed in the last 2 years to find more rail lines to carry Bakken oil east across Minnesota.

Letter signers said public ownership will ensure the Kenilworth corridor “will never be exploited in this dangerous way, jeopardizing the lives and safety of the people of Minneapolis.”

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