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Continued: How Minneapolis accepted Southwest Corridor light-rail deal

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 12, 2014 - 6:41 AM

“You’re fragmenting the opposition this way,” said Carleton College political science Prof. Steven Schier. “Pretty artful.”

The city’s claim that there were promises to move the freight out of the corridor was ineffective. The Southwest project, in the works for years, wasn’t going back to the drawing board for a new route. Rejecting the project wasn’t an appealing option for a DFL mayor and City Council members who support transit.

Veteran City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden was on the Minneapolis negotiating team and played a critical role during mediation, according to several sources.

“Elizabeth was someone who saw the importance of this project to the city and knew it would be her responsibility to go to her colleagues on the council to gain their support for it,” said Met Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh. “She took a significant leadership role,” focusing on the broader benefits of the line over neighborhood interests.

Seeing the bigger picture

“We only have so many chances to build our transit,” Glidden said in an interview this week explaining why she endorsed the deal. “I’m not pretending this is perfect for Minneapolis. But this is an important piece of serving the region.”

Glidden noted that Southwest is intended as part of a bigger light-rail network that includes the existing Hiawatha and Central lines and envisions a future Bottineau line, all heavily dependent on federal funding. “If this line ended up not being built,” she said of Southwest, “it would be extremely challenging to think how we’re going to get a third line built to serve the Twin Cities metropolitan area.”

Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Hodges have supported adding streetcars to the city transit network, including linking them to light rail, and during Southwest mediation talks the city “wanted to pursue a partnership on streetcars with us,” Duininck said. “Our response was that this is a bigger policy question that needs to go through regional vetting and not something that should be done during negotiations over municipal consent” for the Southwest project.

“There were a few contentious moments, but it never felt like either of us was really ready to walk away from the table,” he said.

Hodges came out in support of the deal without much enthusiasm.

“Our support comes with sacrifice,” she told reporters Tuesday. “The costs to be borne by our city and our residents are high. Freight was to be removed. Against our objection, it remains.

“The costs would have been far, far higher, however without … the protections that this tentative agreement gives the city,” she said. “This is the most responsible way for the city to move forward and for the project to move forward.”

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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