The company that runs freight trains along part of the planned Southwest light rail line in Minneapolis today raised safety concerns about a new proposal to move its freight traffic to St. Louis Park.
A preliminary analysis by the Twin Cities & Western Railroad company found the curves and elevation changes along the proposed new route pose a risk of derailment.
President Mark Wegner, the railroad company's president, said he wants to try to address those concerns with the Metropolitan Council's railroad consultant, TransSystems.
"I want to see the Southwest Light Rail happen," Wegner said. "I grew up here. I know the congestion around here. I drive through the southwest all the time. I want to see it happen, but it has to work for both light rail and freight rail long term."
Transystems officials say curves like the one in its plan are found on rail routes across the United States and meet engineering safety standards.
There is nothing unsafe or unusual about the proposal, said Jim Terry, a senior vice president for the consultant, TranSystems.
"My company does rail design work for the BNSF, the Union Pacific. They're our two biggest customers," he said. "And we encounter curves like this all the time."
They also say that the two viable options for the freight traffic are keeping it in Minneapolis or moving it to St. Louis Park.
Although officials in both cities want the project to proceed, neither community wants the freight train traffic.
The $1.5 billion Southwest line will run 15.8 miles from Target Field Station in Minneapolis through St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. By 2030, 30,000 rides are expected every weekday, on average.
Construction is expected to begin in 2015, with service expected to begin in 2018.