Rybak urges broader LRT inquiry

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 20, 2013 - 10:52 PM

Mayor asks agency to expand search for a way to reroute freight cars.

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The Kenilworth Trail alongside a freight train track that is adjacent to a proposed site for the Southwest Corridor light rail line.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak on Friday urged an agency planning the Southwest Corridor light-rail to expand its search for a way to reroute freight trains out of a corridor in the city that will be used by the transit line.

Rybak wrote Metropolitan Council chair Susan Haigh to ask her to take another look at previously rejected freight route options, including the possibility of bypassing St. Louis Park, where some residents have rallied against an option for moving freight traffic there.

He also questioned whether the agency had rejected other reroute options because they wouldn’t work or because a railroad opposed them for economic reasons.

“What is ‘unacceptable’ to the railroads from a business perspective may actually be ‘workable’ from a technical perspective,” Rybak wrote. “This distinction needs to be better understood and documented.”

Haigh said in a written response Friday night that Rybak’s letter “contains a lot of technical detail that we will need to review before we can comment further.”

Met Council engineers plan to meet with consultants next week to take a fresh look at possible freight reroutes. The engineers say they will focus their attention on re-examining two routes in St. Louis Park that were rejected. The agency later advanced a reroute that would place freight tracks on two-story berms in that suburb at a cost of $200 million.

An acceptable freight reroute would provide an alternative to keeping the freight in the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis and digging tunnels next to it for the LRT line at a cost of $160 million. That idea is opposed by some Minneapolis residents who say it wouldn’t sufficiently hide the LRT, and Rybak and other city officials say they only agreed to accept the transit in the corridor on condition the freight were moved out of it.

While Rybak has left open the possibility of supporting tunnels, he wrote, “We must also negotiate with the railroads to develop and refine a less costly relocation option that has less impact to both Minneapolis and St. Louis Park.”

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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