A recent commentary by former Hennepin County Board Chairman Mark Andrew (“Southwest rail issues long since solved,” Aug. 22) seemed to suggest that St. Louis Park has already agreed to a rerouting of freight traffic from the Kenilworth Corridor in Minneapolis to another line in my community.
As I was one of the people who signed that agreement as president of the St. Louis Park Economic Development Authority, I thought I should comment on some of the points made by Mr. Andrew.
It is true that in 1998 the city of St. Louis Park and Hennepin County entered into what was called a “preliminary agreement” to investigate the redevelopment of a severely polluted site (Golden Auto site) and analyze the feasibility for using a portion of the site for new freight rail tracks to connect the Bass Lake Spur to the MN&S line in St. Louis Park.
As stated in that agreement, the county desired that a portion of the site be used to provide a rail interconnect, and the city desired to see the polluted property cleaned up to allow for redevelopment. What is also important to understand about this agreement is:
• The affected railroads were not a party to the agreement.
• The preliminary agreement was intended to result in another agreement — a “final agreement” that was never entered into.
• The preliminary agreement states that a precondition of approval of a rail interconnect is that the St. Louis Park and other parties have formally agreed to an interconnect. The county, with the assistance from Minnesota Department of Transportation, was to take the lead relating to the potential implementation of an interconnect agreement. None of these agreements were ever obtained. As such, St. Louis Park has never agreed to the relocation of freight rail.
The commentary also seemed to suggest that the city’s receipt of county grant funds to clean up the polluted site somehow obligated or resulted in the city agreeing to a rail interconnect. The city did receive these grant funds, but the grant agreement between the city and county does not in any way indicate that in return for the grant funding the city was agreeing to the rail interconnect.
At the request of the county, the city did obtain an easement from the developer/property owner for a possible rail interconnect.
So, in summary, the preliminary agreement referenced by Andrew and the grant funding provided by the county did not obligate the city to reroute freight traffic. We have never consented or agreed to a freight-rail reroute in St. Louis Park.
Jeff Jacobs is the mayor of St. Louis Park.