Mpls. Council skeptical of Southwest LRT tunnel plan

Southwest LRT
Some Minneapolis residents with the group LRT Done Right oppose a plan to co-locate both light rail and freight traffic along the Kenilworth corridor that currently is used by bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as freight trains. This photograph shows one of the "pinch points" along the trail where townhomes are close to the train tracks Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013.
MPR File Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Some Minneapolis City Council members are skeptical of proposals to build tunnels through parts of the city for the Southwest Light Rail line.

The Metropolitan Council is considering the tunnels to fit the light rail line next to existing freight train tracks through parts of the line in Minneapolis. Planners are trying to determine whether to bury in the light rail trains in a deep or shallow tunnel along the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis, where bicycle trails run parallel to train tracks.

At a council committee meeting today, council member Lisa Goodman told a Met Council staff member that she would like an independent assessment of the challenges of tunneling so close to two city lakes.

"You're essentially saying, 'We're working to understand it. We think we understand what might happen,' " Goodman said. "And it's not incumbent on our staff to be doing an independent analysis. Their role is to look out for interest of the city -- not the project."

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The project's design and engineering director, Jim Alexander, told members the Met Council is working closely with the city on the tunnel plans.

City Council member Sandy Colvin Roy told Alexander the city also spent a lot of time and money researching a tunnel that was never built for the Central Corridor light rail line.

"A lot of work can be done to identify all the costs and implications of a tunnel and then there's a final entity that will make a budget decision," Colvin Roy said. "So I hope you don't take any of this questioning personally Mr. Alexander. But, it's not our first rodeo."

Another option would reroute existing freight traffic to St. Louis Park -- a plan strongly opposed by area residents.

The Met Council will decide next month whether to build the tunnels or choose another option. City leaders have until this fall to decide whether or not to agree to accept the Met Council's plans for the line.