By Pat Doyle and Eric Roper
A Minneapolis city council member is pushing fellow members to go on the record rejecting a plan to keep freight trains in a recreational corridor and put the Southwest Corridor light rail in tunnels nearby.
The move by council member Kevin Reich comes as metro leaders near a decision on whether to adopt the tunnel plan or reroute freight traffic in St. Louis Park to make room for the light rail at ground level in the Kenilworth corridor.
Reich wants the council to adopt a resolution (text below) Wednesday warning the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the Southwest project, that the city won’t accept the tunnels if the agency recommends them later this spring. Reich chairs the council's transportation and public works committee.
The Met Council is required under state law to seek the consent of cities along the proposed light rail route, which would run from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
The draft resolution says the city only supports a light rail plan that “relocates freight out of the Kenilworth corridor” and allows the light rail to run at ground level next to existing bike paths.
“This is very consistent with what the Minneapolis City Council has always agreed to and what it has said in the past,” said Council Member Lisa Bender, chair of the city’s zoning and planning committee, highlighting a recent consultant’s study regarding freight relocation.
St. Louis Park officials and residents say the reroute would run too close to homes and schools, require property acquisitions and pose traffic and safety problems.
The Twin Cities & Western Railroad also opposed the current freight reroute option, saying curves and changing elevations would make it unsafe.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Betsy Hodges, Kate Brickman, said the mayor is aware of the resolution and will weigh in on the matter following the vote.