The city that initially prohibited the study of a passenger line on the Dan Patch rail corridor is now seeking to do just that.
Edina’s transportation commission is studying the possibility of passenger rail service along the tracks west of Hwy. 100, which stretch from Minneapolis to Northfield. It will hold a meeting on Tuesday to gauge public interest.
“We’ve had enough of our residents raise this issue that we think it’s important to study it,” Edina Mayor James Hovland said.
The $30,000 report is expected to result in a recommendation to the City Council in September about whether the city should encourage the establishment of a passenger rail service.
It also would determine whether the city wants to help lift a legislative gag order, introduced in 2002 by former state Rep. Ron Erhardt, that banned state and regional authorities — but not cities — from studying the creation of commuter rail on the line.
Named after the famed Minnesota racehorse, the Dan Patch corridor carried a commuter rail line known as the Dan Patch Electric Railroad to Northfield from 1910 to 1942.
The corridor is now owned by Canadian Pacific Railway and carries two freight trains a day through Edina, with more freight traffic expected in the future, according to city documents.
The meeting on the issue will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the city’s public works facility, 7450 Metro Blvd.
The transportation commission is keeping its options open and looking at all forms of public rail transportation, said Mark Nolan, a city transportation planner. That means everything from a spur that would connect to a St. Louis Park station for the proposed Southwest light-rail line, to commuter rail such as the Northstar line in the northern suburbs, to intercity rail service such as Amtrak.
“There is nothing that’s off the table right now,” Nolan said. “The flip side of that is, no decision has been made.”
The city also plans on reaching out to neighboring suburbs, including Bloomington and St. Louis Park, to pique their interest in reactivating the line.
“We obviously realize we can’t study a system like that ... in a vacuum,” Nolan said. “In the past, those communities have not been supportive of passenger rail.”
Critics argue that frequent high-speed traffic on the Dan Patch line is a hazard for bordering homes and businesses.
A 2001 study conducted by Dakota County concluded that it was economically impractical to establish a passenger line on the Dan Patch corridor, a finding that cities such as Lakeville continue to follow.
Meanwhile, several cities and legislators have tried and failed to lift the gag rule.
Dan Krom, passenger rail director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the “not in my backyard” argument is made for all rail corridors in the metro area.
“Communities are growing up along the really low-use rail line,” he said. “Anybody that is going to change that environment ... is going to have an impact on that.”
But Hovland said the increase in commuter traffic predicted from the Southwest light-rail expansion, which would pass through several west metro suburbs, suggests the city should consider how the Dan Patch line might be used to expand its own transit.
“It’s important for us to understand what our options are here in Edina, too,” the mayor said.
He said people are already coming up with “cute little monikers” for a light-rail spur, such as “South by Southwest” and “The Green Hornet,” a reference to the city’s high school teams.