Badly split Minneapolis park commissioners approved a deal Wednesday evening that drops their opposition to a bridge crossing of the Kenilworth channel for the Southwest light-rail line, leaving a residents’ lawsuit to be argued next week as the only obstacle.
Commissioners vented at Metro Council representatives before voting 6-3 for the proposal, with Meg Forney and Anita Tabb, both from the lakes area, and Annie Young opposed. Former Commissioner George Puzak was among lake-area residents urging delay until environmental studies are complete. “I understand the enormous pressure on you to hurry up and get in line with the Metro Council,” he said. Gov. Mark Dayton urged withholding some of the board’s state aid during the dispute.
The pact with the Metro Council, which votes next week, ends the board’s high-stakes dispute over the proposed $1.6 billion light-rail line between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, which would create a new commuting option in the west metro.
Park officials agreed to scrap their idea of an expensive rail tunnel under the channel between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. The board earlier wanted to fully investigate the tunnel as a less disruptive alternative to a rail bridge, although it would have delayed the project and driven up costs.
In exchange, park officials will get a bigger role in the design of the bridge and other park-areas along the Southwest LRT line. They’ll also have earlier influence on the Bottineau line to Brooklyn Park, slated for a 2018 construction start.
The council will reimburse the Park Board half of the nearly $500,000 it spent on consultants for tunneling studies, plus another $21,500 for related staff costs. The agreement also pledges reimbursement for future staff work on the Southwest project as the bridge design is shaped. The plan also anticipates up to $250,000 for future work in shaping the Bottineau line.