Here’s why the plan should be approved, and why it fits well into the metro area’s future.
There is a very real threat that we may lose all funding for the Southwest Corridor light-rail line. We either build light rail in shallow tunnels or abandon the project; those are our two options.
Whether or not the project is ever built, freight will remain in the Kenilworth corridor. While we are extremely disappointed in the railroad’s uncooperative behavior, freight rail has undergone dramatic changes in recent years, and some are holding out for a solution that no longer exists. We have both been passionate advocates for our trails, rails and neighborhoods. We have strongly supported relocation of freight. We never anticipated the current impasse involving Southwest light-rail transit, freight rail and the Kenilworth corridor.
Before we make this momentous decision, we should acknowledge three important facts.
1) We are getting our money’s worth.
The true value of any light-rail line lies in its contribution to an overall network. For example, the proposed Kenilworth alignment for Southwest LRT plays a vital role serving north Minneapolis through transfers at the Royalston Station. The network would be further strengthened by future rail transit along the Midtown Greenway — ideas range from a version of light rail to streetcars, with transfers at the West Lake Street Station — the “Network Alignment.” Such an approach would be less costly and serve far more residents of Minneapolis than would a Southwest line that uses a Midtown Greenway/Nicollet Avenue alignment:
Capital cost, 2019
Routes on Hennepin or Lyndale Avenues would have been very costly, requiring long tunnels and significant commercial disruption, and would still not have achieved the higher ridership of the Network Alignment.
In 2014, we made significant progress on the Greenway Line with completion of the Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis. In February, the Policy Advisory Committee unanimously recommended rail transit in the Midtown Greenway along with enhanced bus on Lake Street as the locally preferred alternative. This recommendation will be forwarded to the Metropolitan Council, where it is anticipated that it will be incorporated into its next transportation policy plan. If built out as recommended, Lake Street has the potential to become one of our region’s most successful transit corridors. This will not happen without Southwest light rail.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.