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Hiawatha light-rail line is now known as the Metro Blue Line.

David Joles, Star Tribune

Southwest light-rail process allows for ample input

  • Article by: James Hovland, Terry Schneider
  • and Jan Callison
  • September 16, 2013 - 12:48 PM

State Rep. Jenifer Loon’s recent commentary (“Met Council must be held accountable on light rail,” Sept. 7) urged that the Southwest Corridor line should require “municipal consent from each city council of every affected community.” We agree and are pleased to report that the transparent process that is being followed for Southwest light rail — and that was created by the Legislature during the 1990s — provides for exactly such local control and input.

 

Elected officials of all five cities on the line as well as Hennepin County will vote on this project as part of the municipal consent process outlined in Minnesota Statutes section 473.3994. Moreover, these communities have worked on and provided input to this project for years through a variety of committees, planning opportunities and the involvement of local elected officials. We can assure you that each community has had and expects to have a substantial role in the planning of this line.

In addition, we are members of an advisory committee made up of elected officials and citizens from the cities and counties along the proposed route to make recommendations to the Metropolitan Council. This committee, called the Corridor Management Committee, is currently working to refine the scope and budget of the process in its advisory capacity. It has insisted upon a thoughtful and thorough process, and we are grateful to Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Sue Haigh for the respect she has given to requests to slow down the process when it was important to do so.

At our Sept. 4 meeting, we made two substantial decisions — both by a vote of the membership. First, we approved the Eden Prairie alignment unanimously. Second, we also voted unanimously to cease consideration of what was termed the “deep tunnel” option for colocating freight and light-rail traffic in the Kenilworth corridor. Eliminating the most expensive option, the deep tunnel, reduces the price of the project to below the amount cited by Loon.

We have been guided in our work by substantial public comment. More than 2,000 residents have attended the 15 public meetings held since April to vet the project scope and cost of Southwest light rail. Other considerations were raised by the citizen, business and technical advisory groups that have been meeting for years to provide ongoing guidance to the project.

We have worked hard to find answers to the complex issues posed by Southwest LRT because we believe this project is critical to creating an economically vibrant future for the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul region. Today, 210,000 jobs along the line are filled by people who will benefit from light rail. By 2030, another 60,000 jobs are projected in the corridor.

In order for our communities to continue to attract major private-sector investments like the United Health Group campus in Eden Prairie, employers need to know that our region is investing in transit to move employees to and from work and to address congestion on our highways so they can ship goods more efficiently.

We are committed to investing in the future economic success of our region, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and continuous input we’ve received from citizens and the business community. We encourage those unfamiliar with the process of developing and building a major public investment like the Southwest light-rail line to join us at our upcoming meetings. Details can be found at www.swlrt.org.

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James Hovland is mayor of Edina. Terry Schneider is mayor of Minnetonka. Jan Callison is a Hennepin County commissioner.

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