The Metropolitan Council voted 14-2 on April 9 to approve the Southwest LRT (METRO Green Line Extension) Project, the Minneapolis area's third light-rail transit line.
The project design the council approved calls for two tunnels to be built under a trail used by pedestrians and cyclists in the Kenilworth neighborhood, with light-rail trains emerging for about 20 seconds between them on a new at-grade light-rail bridge over the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles. In addition to the shallow tunnels, the project’s scope includes 16 stations; an operations and maintenance facility in Hopkins and a westernmost station at Mitchell Road in Eden Prairie with a budget between $1.673 billion and $1.683 billion.
Freight tracks adjacent to the trail would need to be moved and would get a new at-grade bridge to replace the creosote-coated wooden trestle. The council said this new freight railroad bridge with concrete supports would greatly reduce navigation obstacles between the lakes for canoeists, kayakers and cross-country skiers. However, the Twin Cities and Western Railroad opposes the reroute option saying it presents safety concerns, eliminates access to car sorting and switching facilities, increases operating costs and reduces fuel efficiency.
Next, the Metropolitan Council will submit the preliminary design plans to Hennepin County and the cities of Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie for their review and approval. The plans will be released on April 10 and made available to the general public online, as well as at libraries and city halls along the corridor.
The Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority will hold a joint public hearing on May 12, 2014. After this hearing, the five cities have 45 days to host their own public hearings and approve or disapprove of the plans.
“The beginning of the municipal consent process signifies the conclusion of two and half years of close work between the council, Hennepin County and the five cities along the line. The next 75 days will give local policymakers a chance to discuss and debate this regional investment and what it will mean to their community. The council’s approval, not only moves the Southwest LRT Project forward, it ensures the further expansion of our regional transit system in other corridors,” Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh said.