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Continued: Southwest LRT tunnel plan near crucial decision

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 13, 2013 - 9:08 AM

“I love the plan,” said Cheryl LaRue, who owns a townhouse along the freight tracks in the corridor, explaining that she wouldn’t mind continuing freight traffic as long as the light rail is mostly hidden. LaRue said city officials opposing the tunnels may not be in sync with many residents. “I’ve lost my patience with them,” she said.

Agency dissenters

Met Council members Cunningham and Adam Duininck, who chairs its transportation committee and also opposes the plan, say their agency should slow down to explore other freight reroute alternatives to the tunnels. Representing sections of Minneapolis outside the Kenilworth corridor, they also call for more environmental studies to safeguard the lakes.

Cunningham is married to Minneapolis City Council Member Betsy Hodges, a candidate for mayor who also opposes the tunnels. He complained that Haigh was “pushing the project forward without the work that was agreed to being completed.”

While acknowledging there were enough votes on the Met Council to approve the tunnel plan, Cunningham said it risks being rejected by Minneapolis.

“I’m trying to understand what the strategy is,” he said.

Haigh was unavailable for reaction Friday.

Collision course

If the Met Council approves the tunnel plan Wednesday, the Southwest Corridor project will be sent to the city of Minneapolis for its consent. A state statute lays out a process that might initially take 75 days, during which Minneapolis could reject the plan and suggest changes that would make it acceptable. The Met Council then would have additional time to respond.

“It anticipates that there is going to be a meeting of the minds,” said Tom Johnson, a former Hennepin County attorney who is representing some Kenilworth residents opposed to the tunnels. “And you keep this process going until that happens.” The statute allows for repeated rounds of give-and-take.

Johnson said just two rounds could take “at least four months … I bet you’re closer to six months.”

The process is mostly untested. No city withheld consent from plans for the Central Corridor or Hiawatha light-rail projects. Haigh has not said whether she would try to push forward with a plan even if Minneapolis refused to give consent.

But one key legislator said political reality makes that a bad strategy.

“You really do need to line up political support along the corridor, particularly from the region’s largest city,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, chair of a Senate transportation committee.

 

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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