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Continued: For Minneapolis, Southwest LRT hits deal or no-deal time

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 13, 2014 - 6:31 AM

But some community groups in north Minneapolis came out last week in support of the project and called on Minneapolis to push for guarantees of high-quality bus service and development at three Minneapolis stations.

Duininck said he expects bus connections from the stations to the North Side to be on the front burner in discussions with the city. He said redeveloping areas around the stations “could be helped” by the Met Council and Hennepin County.

Open to talks

Yang said he doesn’t know how he’ll ultimately vote on the Southwest plan, but added, “Nothing’s ruled out at this point.”

“We have to just ask ourselves, ‘What’s going to be best for Minneapolis moving forward?’ ” he said. “If the … tunnels are what we get, then we have to make a tough decision on whether we want that or not.”

He said redeveloping areas near the stations and guaranteeing good bus service to his North Side constituents “would be very important” in reaching a decision. Yang also said it “would be tough” to turn away the federal funding available for the project.

New Council Member Lisa Bender, whose ward includes Uptown, also is undecided. She expects the City Council to initially deny consent, leading to some offers and perhaps guarantees, and is “very hopeful” of reaching a deal.

“I think improving transit access … to the Southwest light rail would absolutely help the city be able to support the proposal,” Bender said. “Enhanced transit connections are definitely part of what I will look at when I make my final decision.”

She’s been a supporter of streetcars on Nicollet to Central avenues and transit along the Midtown Greenway and Lake Street that could link the Hiawatha line with the future Southwest line.

But Yang and some members of the Met Council aren’t enthusiastic about streetcars, regarding them as inefficient and costly.

Duininck said there’s no Met Council money earmarked for streetcars, but the agency could commit to include streetcars in its long-range transit plans that would help the city get federal funding.

The City Council also is expected to face pressure from organized labor. Dan McConnell, business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, said he will meet with city officials to tout potential construction jobs.

And the Met Council has set a goal of hiring minorities for 32 percent of the work, a target some City Council members will find appealing.

Tunnel tension

The two tunnels planned for the Kenilworth corridor could prove divisive for the City Council. Planners offered them as an alternative to running 220 light-rail trains a day at ground level past homes in the hope of buying support from Minneapolis, but it hasn’t succeeded.

So some metro officials involved in the plan suggest shaving $55 million to $60 million off the project’s cost by digging a tunnel in the south end of the corridor but not the north.

“If it really is there to help get the votes to make this line happen … then I’d consider keeping it in,” Hopkins City Council Member Cheryl Youakim said of the north tunnel.

Eliminating the north tunnel would put trains at ground level longer.

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