The possible choices for the proposed Southwest LRT line are down to two, according to the head of the agency spearheading the project.
The project has been sidelined by a disagreement over how to resolve a conflict between the light-rail train and freight trains in the narrow Kenilworth Corridor. The corridor is the site of a prized bike and pedestrian path near Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.
One choice is to leave the freight tracks where they are and route the LRT through a shallow tunnel. The other choice is to reroute the freight trains through St. Louis Park, avoiding the Kenilworth corridor and allowing the LRT to share the space with bikers and pedestrians.
"I would say that these are the two alternatives remaining in this corridor," said Sue Haigh, chair of the Metropolitan Council, in an interview Friday with The Daily Circuit.
The St. Louis Park option was contained in a consultant's report that the council released Thursday. The report modified an earlier proposal that had been rejected by residents and leaders of that suburb. One change from the earlier proposal was in the height of berms on which the trains would run. The route would require that some homes and businesses be relocated.
"It reduces the berms in the previous alignment that was a reroute into St. Louis Park," Haigh said. "I believe the consultant said yesterday that the berms, instead of being up to 22 feet high, would be four to six feet high."
Haigh said the freight traffic through the Kenilworth corridor amounts to two or three trains per day. "It is a limited amount of freight rail traffic on that particular alignment today," she said.
A second consultant's report, also released Thursday, supports earlier findings that the tunnel option would do no harm to the lakes or groundwater.
Haigh said forums on Feb. 10 and 12 would seek public comment on the proposals. She said the council and its staff also had a lot of work to do to evaluate the two remaining options.
"Our timeframe today is to try to make a decision on a final project, budget and scope, by the end of March," she said.