Bowing to metro leaders, Met Council pushes back LRT action

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2013 - 12:38 AM

Met Council pushed back Southwest light-rail route decision after city and county leaders said they needed more time to weigh options.

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Citing pleas from metro leaders to slow down, members of the agency overseeing the Southwest light-rail transit project decided Thursday that they would give the officials an extra week to consider decisions crucial to its future.

The delay was announced a day after city and county officials complained that they didn’t have enough time to consider whether to support rerouting freight train traffic to make way for the LRT or putting the light rail in a tunnel near the freight.

“Having some additional time to kind of work through some of these things would be good,” Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said Thursday after the announcement.

The Metropolitan Council, in charge of planning the project, had scheduled a meeting for next Wednesday when its staff would recommend a course of action to the group of metro leaders, called the Corridor Management Committee. The group was then expected to make its own recommendation.

But some members of the group said Wednesday that the 90 minutes scheduled for the meeting was inadequate.

“We really need the chance to discuss this among ourselves,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison. Met Council Chair Sue Haigh added 30 minutes to the scheduled meeting.

Late Thursday, the Met Council sent out a notice to members and news media saying it was postponing its staff recommendation and the group’s response to it until Sept. 11. It also moved the meeting from St. Louis Park City Hall to the St. Louis Park Recreation Center.

St. Louis Park doesn’t want the freight rerouted to their community. Minneapolis had agreed to routing the light-rail line through its Kenilworth corridor on condition that the freight traffic be moved. Resolving the dispute is critical to moving forward with the future Southwest line, which would run nearly 16 miles from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie at a cost of $1.58 billion to $1.82 billion.

Planners are considering putting the freight trains on two-story-high berms in St. Louis Park or hiding the LRT in tunnels in the Kenilworth corridor.

“What we heard from the Corridor Management Committee yesterday is that they need another opportunity to discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by each option,” said Met Council spokeswoman Laura Baenen.

In a statement, the Met Council said it hoped to use next Wednesday’s meeting for those discussions and to “obtain the Corridor Management Committee’s advice on that draft staff recommendation” on Sept. 11.

Earlier this month, the Met Council delayed its own vote on the options from Aug. 28 to Sept. 25.

 

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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