St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie approve Southwest light rail

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2014 - 8:58 PM

Minneapolis, with tentative route deal, expected to vote in August.

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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 unanimously approved plans Monday night for the $1.6 billion Southwest light-rail project, having successfully resisted sending freight trains through its community to make room for the transit line in Minneapolis.

“There is no question, this is a momentous vote for us,” said St. Louis Park City Council Member Anne Mavity.

Eden Prairie also approved plans for the Southwest line Monday night.

Their approvals shift the focus to Minneapolis, which reached a tentative deal last week over the Southwest route and is expected to vote in late August.

Minnetonka and Hopkins earlier gave consent to the Southwest project, the most costly transit venture in the Twin Cities area. It would run nearly 16 miles from downtown Minneapolis and through the suburbs, ending in Eden Prairie.

The Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the Southwest project, is required under state law to seek the consent of the five cities along the route before moving forward with the project. The agency expects to ask the Federal Transit Administration in September for permission to move forward.

St. Louis Park fought attempts by Minneapolis to move freight trains out of the Kenilworth corridor and reroute them in the suburb, and the resolution of support for the light rail passed Monday strengthened St. Louis Park’s defense against the rerouting idea resurfacing.

A previous city draft of support said the community understood that no further study of a freight reroute was needed. The version that passed Monday says that understanding also is shared by the Met Council.

Several St. Louis Park City Council members said they favored seeking a similar understanding from Hennepin County, which owns Kenilworth corridor land where the freight tracks run.

Facing opposition from all four suburbs along the route, Minneapolis officials negotiating with the Met Council last week dropped demands to move the freight, agreeing to keep it in the Kenilworth corridor and run Southwest in a tunnel and at ground level nearby. The Met Council agreed to restore a Minneapolis station dropped from earlier plans, improve access to other city stations and landscaping and safety features.

St. Louis Park and Eden Prairie both offered a wish list of features they’d like to see included in the project. Unlike the features included in the tentative deal with Minneapolis, the suburban items depend on the availability of unused contingency money and the discretion of the Met Council.

For St. Louis Park, they included:

• Grade separations for the Cedar Lake Regional Trail at Wooddale Avenue and Beltline Boulevard.

• A roadway underpass at Beltline Boulevard at rail and trail crossings.

• Structured park-and-ride at the Beltline station.

• A new roadway underpass near the Wooddale Station.

For Eden Prairie, the requests included:

• Building side platforms instead of a center platform at the Town Center station.

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