The future routes of freight rail and light rail in the southwest metro area will be the topic at two open houses this week held by the Metropolitan Council.
The meetings on Thursday, one from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and another from 4:30 to 7 p.m., will be held in the Commons Cafeteria at Benilde-St. Margaret's School, 2501 Highway 100 South in St. Louis Park.
Engineers will speak with people one on one to explain the options for rerouting freight to accommodate the planned southwest light rail line or running the two tracks alongside each other, said Metropolitan Council spokeswoman Laura Baenen.
"None of these concepts are easy," Baenen said. "They all have their challenges. This would be building a light rail line through a very developed urban and suburban setting. It's going to have impacts, both full acquisitions of property and partial acquisitions, not to mention temporary construction easements."
The council will present eight new ideas, including building the new light rail and freight rail tracks side by side at ground level; or elevating or building tunnels for light rail.
The light rail tracks and freight rail tracks could be separated and run along different paths.
Baenen said options include running freight tracks through the existing St. Louis Park High School football field or skirting the field.
"These are just what's possible from a technical standpoint only. Not taking into account yet what the cost impacts would be, what the impacts would be on neighborhoods, what the impacts would be on residents -- and that's why we need to hear from people," she said.
The Southwest Light Rail Transit Project will operate from downtown Minneapolis through the southwestern suburban cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.
The Metropolitan Council must decide on the freight rail issue by late summer, Baenen said.