Judge rules in favor of Met Council for Southwest light rail

Planned route for the Southwest light rail line
The planned route for the Southwest light rail line, as of January 2017.
Courtesy of Metropolitan Council

Updated: 6:30 p.m. | Posted: 1:35 p.m.

A federal judge has ruled against a group of Minneapolis residents who challenged the route of the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail project.

A group called the Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis, claimed the Metropolitan Council settled on a light rail corridor before it completed a required final environmental review. The lawsuit was filed in 2014.

The Met Council denied that its planning process violated federal law.

District court chief judge John Tunheim agreed but said it was a "close case". He noted the planning process forces the council to walk a tight rope given the need to win numerous municipal consent agreements in mapping out a new light rail train path.

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"This Court's task here, however, is not to consider the wisdom of the Council's decisions and deals, but rather, is limited to deciding whether the Council violated federal law," Tunheim wrote in the summary judgment order.

The Lakes and Parks Alliance is extremely disappointed by the decision, a spokesperson for the group said in a statement.

"It's based on the precise question as to whether the Met Council is allowed to break its promises — that is, its legally negotiated Memorandums of Understanding with the City of Minneapolis and others. The decision says yes, they can," the spokesperson said, adding the group will be considering other options.

The Met Council is pleased with the ruling, said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff.

"The Council continues to engage residents and businesses as we plan for this project, which will improve mobility and connect people with jobs all across the region," Tchourumoff said in a statement.

Transit planners hope to connect downtown Minneapolis with the southwestern suburbs. Critics are concerned that the proposed line would threaten a popular biking, walking and cross country ski trail.