Railroad tracks run parallel to the Kenilworth Trail on the planned route for the Southwest light-rail line.
Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune
Minnetonka residents ask for change to light-rail route
- Article by: Emma Nelson
- Star Tribune
- June 4, 2014 - 10:17 AM
As plans for the Southwest Corridor light-rail project take shape, some Minnetonka residents worry they’ll find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks.
They’re concerned about a stretch that would run through Opus Hill, a wooded area that includes a heavily used recreational trail. If the route goes ahead as planned, hillside trees will be cut down.
Jerry Kavan, who owns the Claremont Apartments, said 171 units that face Opus Hill pay extra for the view. Under current plans, the train would pass 89 to 120 feet from the apartments, obstructing the view and adding noise, light and vibration that could drive those residents out.
“We view this as pretty devastating to our property,” Kavan said.
So he’s leading a push for an alternate route that would arc out, on pylons, into a nearby wetland — adding a station and about a minute of travel time.
Minnetonka City Council Member Tony Wagner said the council is taking the request for an alternate route seriously, but until more study is done, it’s tough to say whether it would be a viable option.
The light-rail project, which will extend the Green Line from downtown Minneapolis into St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, is still in the development phase. It’s expected to be complete by 2019.
“It’s never too late, right?” Wagner said. “But this is pretty far down the road.”
Reconsidering the route
In light of the request for an alternate route, the Minnetonka City Council is expected to ask the Metropolitan Council’s Southwest Project Office to evaluate how a rerouted line would affect the wetland. The City Council heard public opinions at its meeting Monday night and will vote June 23 on whether to approve a route through the city.
“My sense is that the council’s been very supportive of the light-rail project; I don’t expect them to waver from that,” said Minnetonka City Manager Geralyn Barone. “However, they are going to have some suggestions going forward, because this is a very long planning process.”
Bill Griffith, an attorney serving as the land use and environmental counsel for the apartment owners, said the plans should be examined more thoroughly via a federally required analysis of the project’s environmental impact before the City Council signs off.
A Metropolitan Council spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement that the Southwest Project Office is examining the environmental impact along the entire corridor.
‘A beautiful site’
The route through the wetland was considered about a decade ago, but eventually dismissed.
Concerns have been raised about the wildlife that might be disturbed if the tracks were to cross through the wetland, Kavan said, but there are similar concerns about the wildlife in the Opus Hill area. “It’s pick your poison,” he said.
Residents of Claremont Apartments and other spots near Opus Hill have expressed their concerns through a petition on Change.org, with comments describing thriving wildlife and beautiful woods.
Kavan said there are people on the trail year-round, enjoying the wildlife and abundant trees. “They’re gorgeous year-round,” he said. “Even in winter, it’s a beautiful site.”
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509
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