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Minneapolis, Met Council announce tentative agreement on Southwest Light Rail project

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: July 8, 2014 - 8:56 AM

The City of Minneapolis and the Metropolitan Council have reached a tentative agreement to build the Southwest Light Rail line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie following lengthy talks mediated by retired federal judge Arthur J. Boylan.

The agreement with two memoranda of understanding would reduce the cost of the project by about $30 million and would remove the light rail tunnel north of the water channel connecting Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, add back the 21st Street Station; and add City-requested pedestrian-access, noise mitigation, landscape restoration and other improvements along the portion of the corridor in Minneapolis.

The second memorada of understanding would keep the Kenilworth freight corridor in public ownership, which the parties agree will decrease the chances that freight trains will increase in frequency or carry more dangerous cargo through the corridor, the Met Coucil said.

“Today’s tentative agreement serves as a path forward to accomplish our mutual goals and to ensure this project gets built as a critical component of our 21st century transit system," said Met Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh. Not only have we found a means for improving the project for Minneapolis’ residents and neighborhoods, but together the City and Met Council will be able to save taxpayers $30 million. This is a win-win outcome.”

Said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, "“The City of Minneapolis has always strongly supported the vision for Southwest LRT. Our support now comes at a high cost – an unexpected and unwelcome cost – because freight was supposed to be removed. Governor Dayton is correct: the Kenilworth Corridor will not be the same. It could have been far worse, however, if not for the protections secured in this tentative agreement. With freight staying in the corridor, and given the constraints we face, this is the most responsible way to get the project built."

Haigh will convene a meeting of the Southwest Corridor Management Committee 10 a.m. Wednesday to review and discuss the tentative agreement.

The Minneapolis City Council’s Transportation & Public Works Committee will review the basic outline of the tentative agreement at the end of its regular committee meeting today at 9:30 a.m. At tonight’s public briefing, residents will have an opportunity to learn more specific details about the tentative agreement and provide public comment. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Av. S.

The Southwest Light Rail line would be the most expensive project in metro area's history, eclipsing the $1 billion spent to open the Green Line, the 11-mile light-rail line that opened in June and runs between Union Depot in downtown St. Paul and Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.

According to the Met Council, the line would begin service in 2019 and cost $1.7 billion, funded by a combination of federal, state and local money. Construction would begin in 2015.

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