Independent consultants who late last month released draft reports on where to locate freight rail lines and the impact the proposed Southwest Light Rail line might have on water resources will present their findings and take questions during Town Hall-style meetings this week.

The first meeting is from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Monday at Dunwoody College of Technology, 818 Dunwoody Blvd. in Minneapolis. The second is from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Louis Park High School, 6425 W. 33rd Street in St. Louis Park. 

The studies were directed by Gov. Mark Dayton after debates had been raging for months on how best to accommodate the light rail line as well as existing freight traffic and bicyclists and pedestrians who use trails in the popular Kenilworth recreational corridor. The proposed Southwest Corridor Light Rail line with its $1.5 billion price tag would run between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

A report by Kansas City-based Burns & McDonald found that building shallow tunnels for the light-rail trains and keeping freight tracks where they currently are would have a minimal impact on water resources.

A study by TransSystems, also based in Kansas City, also found that keeping freight trains in their current location and building tunnels for light-rail trains is viable.

It also found that a second option that would reroute freight west to St. Louis Park, freeing space for light rail to cruise at ground level without the need for tunnels near Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles.  However, the study did not support the idea of running freight trains along earthen berms.

The issue as to where freight rail traffic will run has been a major source of controversy.

Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh said she hopes the council will be ready to decide on how to proceed by the end of March, and will have support from the project’s funding partners and affected cities.

Under state law, the Met Council must seek the consent of Minneapolis, St. Louis Park and other communities along the Southwest line to move forward with the light-rail plan.

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