Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Minneapolis, Met Council’s Southwest LRT tentative agreement removes shallow tunnel from plan

Minneapolis, Met Council’s Southwest LRT tentative agreement removes shallow tunnel from plan Mike Doyle for Metro Transit.

Minneapolis and the Metropolitan Council (Met Council) have reached a tentative agreement regarding the plan to build the Southwest Light Rail Project from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, Minn.

The tentative agreement, which includes two memoranda of understanding, was reached as a result of discussions mediated by retired federal judge The Honorable Arthur J. Boylan.

At the city's request, one memorandum of understanding awaiting approval by both sides calls for the Metropolitan Council to: redesign the Minneapolis portion of the Southwest Light Rail Corridor to remove the light-rail tunnel north of the water channel connecting Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles; add back the 21st Street Station and add city-requested pedestrian-access, noise mitigation, landscape restoration and other improvements along the portion of the corridor in Minneapolis. If approved by both sides, the Met Council's revised budget for Southwest light rail will be reduced by $30 million, from $1.683 billion to $1.653 billion, as a result of these changes to the preliminary design of the project.

Separately, the parties tentatively agreed to a second memorandum of understanding that commits the Met Council to work closely with Minneapolis and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority to ensure that the Kenilworth freight corridor remains in public ownership, which the parties agree will decrease the chances that freight trains will increase in frequency or carry more dangerous cargo through the corridor.

The tentative agreement will become final after it has been approved and signed by both the Met Council and City of Minneapolis.

"The Metropolitan Council and the city of Minneapolis agree that Southwest LRT is an essential component toward building a comprehensive transit system that will benefit the region as a whole as well as Minneapolis," said Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh. "Southwest LRT will provide critical access to jobs for all people living and working along the corridor. Thank you to Judge Boylan for his skill and professionalism in helping us reach this tentative agreement."

Haigh continued, "Today's tentative agreement serves as a path forward to accomplish our mutual goals and to ensure this project gets built as a critical component of our 21st century transit system. Not only have we found a means for improving the project for Minneapolis' residents and neighborhoods, but together the City and Met Council will be able to save taxpayers $30 million. This is a win-win outcome."

"The city of Minneapolis has always strongly supported the vision for Southwest LRT," said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. "Our support now comes at a high cost – an unexpected and unwelcome cost – because freight was supposed to be removed. Governor Dayton is correct: the Kenilworth Corridor will not be the same. It could have been far worse, however, if not for the protections secured in this tentative agreement. With freight staying in the corridor, and given the constraints we face, this is the most responsible way to get the project built."

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