A second round of public hearings on the planned Southwest light-rail line began Thursday with a mix of concerns over environmental disruption and safety hazards and praise for the plans to provide rail service to more communities.
The hearing at Minneapolis Central Library, hosted by the Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority, was the first in a series to be held in each of five communities along the proposed line.
It's a second go-round for each of the cities, which previously took public input and gave their consent to the project. But after the cost of the plan swelled to $1.74 billion and later to $1.77 billion, officials from each of the municipalities agreed to make $250 million in cuts. Now, the Metropolitan Council is seeking feedback on the revised plan.
Among the proposed changes: The line wouldn't go as far west as originally planned into Eden Prairie, and the Town Center Station in Eden Prairie won't be built until additional funding is available. The revisions removed money for public art and trimmed back funds for landscaping and other features near the rail platforms. There also will be less parking: 2,487 spots, down from 3,834.
Some of Thursday's 26 speakers worried about the risks of running the light rail so close to freight lines often used to carry hazardous materials. Others said public money would be better spent on expanding transit in areas of the metro with more diverse populations.
"We're doing this for the people in the suburbs trying to get to their corporate jobs sooner," said Lynn Levine.
Supporters said the project will provide links to jobs for people who live outside of the planned line, and will take cars off the road. Richard Adair said his biggest environmental concern is global warming — and worries about the impact of not moving forward with the project.
Funding plans call for $722 million in local contributions and $165 million in state money.