Freight rerouting pressed at St. Louis Park's Southwest light-rail hearing

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2014 - 5:42 AM

At first light-rail hearing, St. Louis Park speakers want freight rerouting plan off the table.

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Railroad tracks run parallel to the Kenilworth Trail on the planned route for the Southwest light-rail line.

Photo: Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune

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St. Louis Park residents who successfully fought efforts to reroute freight trains in their community aren’t taking their victory for granted.

On Monday, they urged the City Council to push for guarantees that a freight reroute won’t be reconsidered as part of the Southwest Corridor light rail plan.

The city should refuse to endorse the project “unless the freight reroute is taken off the table for good,” said Brian Zachek at a public hearing Monday night.

The freight reroute options should be “buried deep in their well-deserved graves,” added Joe LaPray.

Monday’s session was the first of a series of public hearings by cities along the future Southwest Corridor light-rail line in advance of voting on whether to endorse the project.

The public hearings are required under a state law that says the Metropolitan Council, which is overseeing the project, must seek consent from St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Minneapolis, as well as Hennepin County.

The $1.68 billion line is expected to run nearly 16 miles from downtown to Eden Prairie and open in 2019.

The communities have until July 14 to give consent to the project or offer alternatives that would trigger new discussions about the plans.

The Met Council last month approved keeping the freight in the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis and running the light rail in tunnels nearby. But it has resisted calls to rule out further consideration of a freight reroute, saying that doing so could complicate efforts to secure approval from the Federal Transit Administration, which directed the agency to study alternatives to keeping the freight in the Kenilworth corridor.

The tunnel plan is opposed by the city of Minneapolis and some of its residents who either want the freight rerouted and running Southwest at ground level in the corridor or building the light rail elsewhere.

The most vocal opponents of rerouting the freight in St. Louis Park are seeking explicit assurances that the idea won’t be revisited. Some at the Monday night hearing expressed fears that Minneapolis officials would seek to keep the freight reroute option alive as the price of consenting to the light rail project. Minneapolis is the only one of the five cities that hasn’t scheduled a public hearing.

Citing numerous studies on freight reroute possibilities, St. Louis Park resident Thom Miller told his City Council, “There will be those who will push to get freight rerouted … Let’s ask Hennepin County, MnDOT, the Met Council and Minneapolis to agree not to study rerouting at any point in the future.”

Some of the St. Louis Park residents expressed mistrust of their city officials, accusing them of not doing enough over the years to thwart a freight reroute.

 

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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