Monday, March 31, 2014 Written by 

According to the Metropolitan Council, the Southwest Light Rail Transit staff in Minneapolis, Minn., has recommended building shallow tunnels for light- rail tracks and a bridge over a channel between two lakes for the Southwest Light Rail Transit Green Line Extension. Planners also recommended keeping Mitchell Station as the westernmost station in Eden Prairie.

The recommendation preserves homes, businesses a trail used by more than a half-million pedestrians and cyclists a year through the Kenilworth neighborhood and railroad tracks used by freight trains.

Two tunnels would be built under the trail, with light rail trains emerging for about 20 seconds between them on a new at-grade LRT bridge over the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles. Freight tracks adjacent to the trail would need to be moved slightly and would get a new at-grade bridge to replace the creosote-coated wooden trestle.

"We have a wealth of information about this project and now is the time to use that information to make a decision that moves this project forward," said Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh. "We're grateful to the communities along the line for their active participation over the past two years and especially during the past six months. What we're hearing now from residents is they need us to make decision so they can move forward with their lives and help to ready their neighborhoods for light rail."

On April 2, planners will present their recommendation to the Southwest Corridor Management Committee, which is scheduled to discuss and vote on a recommendation to the Metropolitan Council.

The project now ranges from $1.673 billion to $1.683 billion as adjusted for inflation, up from $1.553 billion due to Mitchell Road Station being retained as the westernmost station and the additional time needed to inform project sponsors and the public about critical issues around water, freight and vegetation. The 15.8-mile line with 16 stations would now open in 2019 instead of late 2018.

Staff also still recommends eliminating 21st Street Station in Minneapolis, which would be expensive to build in a tunnel. Project staff also recommends adjusting the route through Eden Prairie by building the tracks south of the original plan to bring light-rail trains closer to the town center.

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