Readers Write: (Aug. 29): State Fair transportation, Southwest LRT, girl with Uzi

  • Updated: August 28, 2014 - 6:47 PM

My neighborhood is clogged with park-and-ride overflow.

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The new transit hub at the Minnesota State Fair, in action on Sunday.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • Star Tribune,

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Like those in an Aug. 25 story (“New State Fair transit hub offers a ticket to the rides”), I looked around in pleasant surprise at the State Fair’s new public transit hub upon arriving by bus. My husband and I marveled at the smooth bus traffic, the antique archway, the new seating and the proximity to the grandstand. My elation has dwindled, however, as overflow parking from the local park-and-ride has lined our once-quiet neighborhood streets for blocks in every direction. The “couple hundred” on-street parking spots eliminated for the hub are starkly noticeable as local park-and-rides burst at the seams. Since increasing use of public transit to the fair remains a goal, then add spots at park-and-rides to match that number and launch an all-out effort to educate the public about how to use public transportation without involving the family car.

Carol Adelmann Linders, Arden Hills

SOUTHWEST LRT

If city grants consent, expect legal action

The Aug. 27 commentary by James Lindbeck (“Southwest LRT: The wrong project for the wrong reasons”) was spot-on in revealing the actual motivations behind the current iteration of the effort. Also, in his reference to author Louise Erdrich’s eloquent comments, he summarized well the consequences to the “soul” of Minneapolis.

But the train as now planned is not inevitable, as he fears. The Lakes and Parks Alliance has retained senior legal representatives, including a former Hennepin County attorney, who believe that the Metropolitan Council has violated both state and federal statutes in requesting municipal consent without a completed environmental-impact statement. If the Minneapolis City Council grants consent, there will very likely be a lawsuit in federal court.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has publicly opposed the current plan and has legal grounds for injunctive relief under a different federal law relating to transit alternatives in historically significant environments. Whether the Park Board would undertake a legal challenge is not known. But the point is clear: This remains a highly controversial plan.

In a highly competitive process, the Federal Transit Authority is unlikely to award funds to a project that not only does not have broad community support but is the subject of legal action. The best way to ensure the future of Southwest light rail would be for the Minneapolis City Council to withhold consent and send this project back for reconsideration a year from now when a full and proper EIS has been conducted, and when other reasonable alternatives to the controversial aspects of the plan have received additional study.

Steven R. Goldsmith, Minneapolis

• • •

Essentially, the compromise deal is an attempt to mitigate the risk of “co-location” of volatile freight rail next to passenger light rail in the same narrow corridor.

The deal seeks to impose restrictions on the freight-rail system in the Kenilworth corridor, but the Star Tribune has reported that public ownership doesn’t guarantee that a railroad with rights to the track couldn’t run more trains or carry hazardous materials (July 9). Since the Metropolitan Council based its initial planning on the false premise that freight rail would either relocate or diminish in volume, it failed to anticipate expanding market conditions (the Bakken effect) that should require the council to advance, rather than restrict, regional economic interests of the Minnesota freight-rail industry.

Questions should be raised over the legality of the council restricting commercial use of the freight tracks (interstate commerce). How enforceable are such restrictions, and how would regulation protect current shippers? Since the federal Surface Transportation Board requires a “balance test” to weigh freight vs. light-rail priority, which stakeholders influence the outcome?

Future “Rail Corridor Risk Management Systems” are necessary in order to respond to economic growth, not to limit a thriving industry. The safe and sustainable solution is to realign light-rail transit in a different corridor, separate from freight rail.

M.T. Mason, Minneapolis

• • •

It’s understandable that the homeowners around the Kenilworth corridor are playing every angle in order to thwart light rail. Transportation improvements always impact some folks more than others. Barring environmental assessment revelations, the line will affect our park system some but will not destroy it. Kenilworth is already a rail corridor. The bike trail will not be eliminated. The argument that the line will mostly benefit Eden Prairie at the expense of Minneapolis shows an ignorance of regional transportation. When the freeway system first cut swaths through the Twin Cities, similarly affluent neighborhoods like Tangletown were bisected, then subjected to constant traffic noise. Perhaps it would have been better if there had been a rail corridor for the freeway to follow.

Minneapolis residents could have argued that they didn’t need Interstate 35W to reach downtown, because they had arterial surface streets. But, of course, Minneapolitans are thankful to have access to freeways to reach all kinds of places, and without 35W and I-94, downtown Minneapolis and our tax base would have withered.

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