Minneapolis residents and others calling for the Metropolitan Council to suspend tree cutting in the Kenilworth corridor for the Southwest light-rail line gathered nearly 2,900 signatures on a petition presented Tuesday to Gov. Tim Walz’s office.
A member of the governor’s staff accepted the petition asking the council to delay plans to cut down more than 1,000 trees along the popular trail until federal funding for the light-rail line is assured.
The $2 billion Southwest light-rail line will connect downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie, with service slated to begin in 2023. The Met Council is planning to apply for a $929 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to help pay for the project later this year.
“It would be unconscionable and irresponsible to allow this precious forest setting to be destroyed without 100 percent certainty that the light rail will be funded,” resident Stuart Chazin said.
Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, both DFL-Minneapolis, joined residents to present the petition, and they signed it as well. Other signers included Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman; Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board members Jono Cowgill, Meg Forney and LaTrisha Vetaw; and new Met Council members appointed by Walz, Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson and Phillip Sterner.
As elected leaders in Washington debate infrastructure spending, it’s unclear where transit funding stands. While Congress directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to distribute $3.8 billion in transit funding in 2017, only a small portion has been doled out, according to the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Transportation for America.
Using local money, construction of the Southwest light rail began this week as rail track was delivered to St. Louis Park.
The council plans to spend $3 million to landscape the Kenilworth corridor following construction, restoring meadow, prairie and woods.
Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said Tuesday, “The governor is currently in budget negotiations with the legislative leaders so he was not able to meet with that group of folks. The group was however able to meet with members of the governor’s staff who heard their concerns and accepted the petition on his behalf.”
Previously, the governor’s office had referred questions to the Met Council.