The city of Minneapolis has stopped issuing permits for weekend and after-hours work on the Southwest light-rail line after neighbors complained about construction-related noise and traffic.
“We were hearing beeping trucks backing up early Saturday and a lot of commotion,” said Kenwood resident Courtney Kiernat, whose backyard borders the Kenilworth Trail. “It was a real bummer.”
Beyond noise issues, the city cited a lack of clarity over why weekend work was needed and the construction schedule for the project and confusion about when work would begin every day, according to Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill.
After decades of planning, construction began last spring along Southwest’s 14.5-mile route between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.
Over the past few months, contractors have been working along the Kenilworth corridor in Minneapolis where a shallow tunnel and a bridge spanning a channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles are planned. Plans call for light-rail and freight trains to share the corridor with a bike and pedestrian path.
“Often when significant infrastructure like bridges are constructed, crews work on Saturdays to reduce the duration of an intensive activity or minimize impacts to the traveling public,” said Southwest spokesman Trevor Roy.
City permits allowed work in the area from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 10 and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 17, Roy said.
The Southwest project office received “a couple of phone calls” from residents last Saturday complaining that work began before 7 a.m. The city received complaints early Saturday, too, though Hill didn’t quantify the number.
By Tuesday, the city notified the Metropolitan Council, which is building the line, that it would refrain from issuing permits for Saturday and after-hours work until “we have a better understanding of the schedule and the benefits of this type of work,” Hill said.
He noted that Saturday and after-hours work “can be a good construction-management tool if it provides a greater public benefit.”
The city may reconsider its position and is trying to get more information from the Met Council on Southwest’s “schedule, critical deadlines, and a demonstration of public benefit resulting from the proposed Saturday or after-hours work,” Hill said.
The relationship between some neighbors in Kenwood and the Southwest project, an extension of the existing Green Line, has long been tenuous. A federal lawsuit filed in 2014 by a group representing Kenwood-area residents and others charged that the Southwest project violated federal environmental laws, but the legal challenge was dismissed on appeal last month.
With a $2 billion price tag, Southwest is the most expensive public-works project in state history. Passenger service is expected to begin in 2023.