Why this week was so important for the future of Southwest LRT — and where things go from here

The Metropolitan Council moved on Thursday to allow construction on the massive Southwest light rail project.
MinnPost photo by Jessica Lee
The Metropolitan Council moved on Thursday to allow construction on the massive Southwest light rail project.

In a historic moment for transit in the Twin Cities, the Metropolitan Council moved to allow construction on the massive Southwest light rail project Thursday, following a notice from federal transportation authorities that the feds are likely to pay their portion of the 14.5-mile line — a development that was celebrated by light-rail advocates across the region.

Here’s what the latest moves mean for the roughly $2 billion project; where things go from here; and what has to happen in the next weeks, months and years for the line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie to actually start carrying passengers.

Why the letter from the feds was so important

For construction to begin, regional leaders needed documented approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) saying it was prepared to pay its share (a little less than half) of the project’s price tag, which currently stands at $2.003 billion. That letter arrived Wednesday afternoon. Known as a “Letter of No Prejudice,” it kicked off a series of procedural steps by local authorities to finalize their plans for what is the biggest infrastructure project in state history.

“This is a day we’ve been waiting for for a long, long time. We’ve been fighting for this,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who has long championed the project.

The letter gives the green light to local authorities — specifically the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners — to start writing checks for construction with assurance the federal government will reimburse them. That means regional leaders will be spending local tax dollars while they complete an application for what’s called a Full Funding Grant Agreement through the FTA. If all goes according to plan, local authorities will get that grant next spring.

“We will continue to work with the FTA over the coming months to submit our application for the Full Funding Grant Agreement,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff.

Why local officials are confident Southwest LRT is going to happen

Local leaders are choosing their words carefully to describe the letter, since it’s not a final approval from the FTA that the feds are spending their $929 million share of the project. But when asked by reporters if she considers the Full Funding Grant Agreement all but locked down, Tchourumoff said: “We feel pretty hopeful about it, and we remain in constant contact with our partners at the FTA to work through that process.”

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Commissioner Peter McLaughlin
There is reason for some caution, though. The FTA under President Donald Trump has delayed similar transit lines in the pipeline by giving out federal money for the projects slowly. From light rail in the Seattle metro to new bus routes in Milwaukee, projects nationwide have faced standstills, leading to soaring labor and construction costs.

Even so, there’s a reason supporters of Southwest LRT are celebrating: All transportation projects that have reached this step have eventually secured a federal grant, Tchourumoff said. Regional planners used the same process for the original Green Line between Minneapolis and St. Paul, which received full federal funding in 2011.

Leaders of the Southwest Light Rail have already spent nearly $293 million on the project for planning and environmental reviews, most of which is local money.

Why transit advocates are breathing a sigh of relief

Regional leaders started talking about the Southwest Light Rail 20 years ago, and the project has had a tumultuous journey pretty much ever since. Between political fighting at the state Capitol to pushback from freight train companies, the fate of the massive project seemed uncertain more often than not.

Members of the Met Council and Hennepin County Board of Commissioners recalled some of those memories in meetings Thursday to highlight the momentous nature of this week’s news, and commended each other and thanked people who helped them along the way, ranging from suburban mayors to Gov. Mark Dayton.

“He stuck with us,” McLaughlin said of the governor. “When people look back at this history of our region, they’re going to look at these major investments that we helped drag over the finish line.”

Why you probably won’t notice anything happening for a while

In the wake of receiving the letter of no prejudice, the Met Council finalized its agreement with the firm of Lunda Construction/C.S. McCrossan to be the project’s contractor. The contract totals more than $799 million and caps a 15-month bidding process.

The contractor, which is based in the Midwest, also built the Green Line and the Blue Line, which runs from the Mall of America to the airport to downtown Minneapolis.

The agreement allows the firm to get ready to start buying equipment, planning staffing and surveying the site. The Council is planning a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony later this month. Then, in December, the council will issue what’s called a “Limited Notice to Proceed” that gives Lunda Construction/C.S. McCrossan official permission to start construction on parts of the route.

Southwest LRT
Metropolitan Council
But it’s unlikely that most people will actually notice “anything remarkable” in terms of construction until next year, according to Southwest LRT project director Jim Alexander. “2019 will be very, very busy. A lot of things will be happening all over the line,” which will include stops in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. “It’s going to impact a lot of people.”

Lunda Construction/C.S. McCrossan’s bid for the Southwest Light Rail expired Thursday, which is why McLaughlin thinks the FTA letter arrived when it did. The agency did not want the bid “to go sour,” he said. “It wasn’t by accident.”

Why you shouldn’t buy your tickets just yet — or underestimate how massive the project is going to be

The Met Council touts Southwest LRT as critical for reaching the metro’s goals around affordable housing, development and job growth. Planners are preparing for an average of 34,000 people to use the new train on a typical weekday, which compares to a daily ridership of about 40,000 people on the Green Line.

Construction of the project will have a huge impact, too. An estimated 7,500 construction crew members will work on the project, which will have a $350 million payroll, according to the Met Council. And when completed, in addition to new vehicle parking and modified bus routes, the project will include:

  • 29 new bridges for light-rail, pedestrians, freight trains and vehicles
  • Changes to seven bridges
  • Six pedestrian tunnels
  • Two tunnels: one under Highway 62 on the Minnetonka-Eden Prairie border and a bigger one along the Kenilworth corridor in Minneapolis
  • More than 100 retaining walls

Project leaders expect that heavy construction to last three years, between 2019 and 2022. They will then spend about a year testing the train cars before allowing passengers on for full service in 2023.

Comments (44)

  1. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/16/2018 - 01:06 pm.

    This is a well written and factual article. However, it is silent on the fact that unlike the Green and Blue lines, this line had appointed rather than elected Representatives approved this massive spending project. So is this project constitutional?

  2. Submitted by Dave Carlson on 11/16/2018 - 01:22 pm.

    The Met Council has approved MANY transportation, sewer & water, parks & trails, and housing and other large infrastructure projects for 50 years so why would the “constitutionality” of this latest decision be in doubt? Besides, their city and county partners are all elected officials who also gave needed approval..

  3. Submitted by Gary Cohen on 11/16/2018 - 03:32 pm.

    Having grown up on the south side of Cedar Lake, I am still very worried about the tunnel in the Kenilworth corridor. The soil conditions there are terrible and if we damage the chain of lakes, that can never be repaired.
    I’ve stopped arguing about how awful the route through there is in terms of ridership since no one is willing to listen to that discussion. And, there is still an outstanding lawsuit from the Lakes and Parks Alliance that has yet to be resolved. LRT is a good idea, parts of this route and the decision making process have been anything but good.

    • Submitted by john herbert on 11/19/2018 - 08:45 am.

      I feel your frustration Gary. As a former Northsider from Minneapolis and now St. Louis Park resident, I agree with you concerning the numbers and the route.

      There has been no real objective analysis in the press that I have seen challenging the assertions set forth in the planning documents. As I have written in the past, it begs belief that someone from 36th & Penn would take a bus to a train to go to work at a job in Eden Prairie.

      Imagine the good we could do for the Northside with only a fraction of that Billion plus in state money!

  4. Submitted by H Ettinger on 11/16/2018 - 05:11 pm.

    Interesting that article did not acknowledge pending lawsuit/appeal by the Lakes & Pakrs Alliance??? Absence of full environmental assessment leaves open serious questions regarding impact of this line on condominiums located within 10′ of tracks in Uptown and Lake of the Isles Regional Park immediately adjacent to the Kenilworth Trail which sadly will become a victim of this project.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/16/2018 - 06:09 pm.

      Probably because the lawsuit was dismissed and the appeal (and the entire lawsuit) is completely frivolous.

      • Submitted by H Ettinger on 11/16/2018 - 07:35 pm.

        Judge Tunheim did not decide based on the lawsuit being “frivolous,” taking many, many months to arrive at his verdict concluding that the Met Council pushed the limit in terms of acting in good faith. Time will tell as to how this case will play out as the lawyers for LPA have excellent reputations in this specific area of the law and would not have initiated an appeal just for the sake of doing so if they felt an appeal was not in order…not as simple as Mr. Terry would lead one to believe.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/17/2018 - 03:04 am.

          No, it really is that simple. And lawyers appeal decisions for the sake of doing so all the time, especially if they are being paid.

          You asked why the lawsuit wasn’t mentioned, and I told you. Its a non-factor. Its irrelevant to the discussion.

          • Submitted by H Ettinger on 11/19/2018 - 08:17 am.

            Wrong again…money raised by citizen donations did not come close to covering the actual cost of attorney fees

            • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/19/2018 - 10:48 am.

              I meant the getting paid part as a general statement. Attorneys will take on absolutely hopeless causes if they are getting paid.

              The fact the attorneys may not be fully compensated doesn’t make this case any more of a hopeless cause.

              Again, the question was why the article did not mention the appeal of ths dismissed lawsuit. And the answer is because the appeal (and the lawsuit itself) has no merit.

        • Submitted by Mike martin on 11/21/2018 - 12:11 am.

          Judge Tunheim’s wife’s company has a large contract with the Met Council so he not an unbiased judge. I’m surprised he was allowed to hear this case because of that conflict of interest

          • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/22/2018 - 04:28 pm.

            First, that’s not a conflict of interest. Second, Tunheim is a good judge and not biased. Third, the lawsuit was completely frivolous. Every judge would have have ruled the same way.

    • Submitted by Dave Carlson on 11/16/2018 - 08:20 pm.

      I, too, wish that the LRT route didn’t have to go through the Kenilworth corridor — probably going up on Nicollet Ave. from the Greenway would have made more sense but would have significantly added to the cost. The popular Kenilworth Trail and the Cedar Lake Trail will be reconstructed or preserved along the entire corridor, and in fact plans call for separated grades on three crossings in St. Louis Park (bridge at Beltline, tunnels at Wooddale and Blake Road). Most of these trails will be closed during construction but signed detours for bicyclists will be provided.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 11/19/2018 - 12:48 pm.

        The problem with going through the Greenway is it’s a trench and at some point you have to get out of that trench and back to street level. That means trenching the heck out of Nicollet, which wouldn’t be a positive move for businesses along the street, either during construction or when they have to deal with the final result.

  5. Submitted by Jon Ruff on 11/17/2018 - 09:04 am.

    This ongoing rehash seems, at best, like a mad dog snapping at imaginary flies.A perfect example of why Minnesota remains an outlier.
    If we had just gotten on with it it would have cost about a third less, and the Trump misery would not be in the way. We’d nearly be riding the thing.

  6. Submitted by Zack Smith on 11/17/2018 - 07:18 pm.

    The SWLRT is why Peter is out of a job….for now. Anyone who thinks this rail is a productive alternative to transit are simply fooling themselves.
    This project does not serve the people of Minneapolis and is already outdated transit technology.
    All this project will do will threaten a pristine urban forest for empty trains from Eden Prairie…just like Norhtstar line.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/18/2018 - 02:24 am.

      Weird, because the candidate who beat Peter, Angela Conley, is a big supporter of the SWLRT.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/19/2018 - 12:47 pm.

      Pristine urban forest? What the heck is that supposed to mean? All I see is a commercialized picnic locale, and a spot to go jogging in too tight outfits. You’re gonna have to work a little harder than that.

      • Submitted by Larry Moran on 11/19/2018 - 03:17 pm.

        I have no idea what this comment means. “Commercialized?” Like with business? In the corridor? “Jogging in too tight outfits?” What does that even mean?

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/20/2018 - 04:05 pm.

          It means folks are getting rather hyperbolic about a park. Not even that, a small section of a park. I get it, Minneapolitans think their lakes are wonderful, but in reality, were they located ANYWHERE else, they’d be an afterthought. What’s a few trains compared to millions of visitors and a centuries worth of urban pollution.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/23/2018 - 09:03 am.

            Just to be clear, none of the land in the Kenilworth corridor is actually “parkland”. Some of it is part of the trail system via easements, but the only part of it that actually belongs to the MPLS Parks is the channel itself. If I remember correctly Henn Co. owns the land and has done for decades since they purchased it from the RR company that used to own it. That’s one reason the LR is going there, they didn’t have to buy any land for this route, they already owned it.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/18/2018 - 07:08 pm.

    If I remember correctly this train was supposed be running two years ago. It’s a much needed upgrade to our transit infrastructure and will be a wonderful asset moving forward.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/19/2018 - 09:36 am.

    The kenilworth route always made the most sense. It does not and will not endanger the lakes in any way, although the deeper longer tunnel UNDER the channel demanded by self professed lake defenders could have threatened the threatened the lakes.

    It always made sense to put this route into an existing rail corridor where trains have been running for 100 years. Proponents of alternate routes through the city never had to seriously explore the enormous cost and disruption of trying to run the line down (or even under) Nicollet where buses already serve city dwellers and a street car line is already planned. Population density along this LR route was never the primary design priority nor should it have been. The Nicollet alternative was rejected for several good reasons that always made perfect sense.

    Those of us who cycle and walk on these trails have been cycling and riding next to trains years. Both the North and South Cedar Lake Trails run next to tracks for miles. We can use trails next the LR in Kenilworth.

    • Submitted by Larry Moran on 11/19/2018 - 10:50 am.

      Mr. Udstrand repeats many of the same arguments for routing the SWLRT line through the Kenilworth corridor that I have heard for 10+ years. But simply repeating the same thing over and over does not make it fact.

      1. The chosen route “does not and will not endanger the lakes in any way….” That sort of sweeping statement is not backed with any fact. I don’t know what effect a cut-and-cover tunnel with a 30′ tall, 150′ long series of cement boxes will have when they are in 8-10′ of ground water. I also don’t know what happens when a heavy rain occurs (with increasing frequency) and the tunnel must be drained into the city storm sewer system (Can it handle it? Who pays for increasing the capacity?). There are lots of questions about a tunnel that haven’t been answered, at least publicly. And just a side note–the city of Minneapolis never asked for a tunnel.

      2. It’s true that proponents never had to look at the cost of other routes. They couldn’t–the Met Council had already selected their route. And the alternate route of choice wasn’t down Niclollet–it was down Park/Portland (Mayor Rybak’s choice as I recall). And that would have made more sense, and served Minneapolis better, as it went by a major hospital system (Abbot), a university (St. Thomas), and served many more transit dependent citizens than the current route through a low density, affluent area.

      3. “Population density along this LR route was never the primary design nor should it have been.” Of course it should have been the main consideration. Light rail is designed to take a large volume of people through a densely populated area. The current route is a commuter route (like the Northstar line). Minneapolis needs a better transportation system within the city for transit dependent citizens and this doesn’t provide it.

      4. Comparing the North and South Cedar Lake Trails to the Kenilworth Trail is disingenuous. Most of those trails are many multiples wider than the Kenilworth Trail at any point. The reason for tunneling under the Kenilworth Trail at the south end is because there’s no room for everything in that space without taking out half the town home development nearby. In addition, north of the channel, everything only fits in the space because the project moves the TC&W track further west (at the project’s expense) and builds a separate, new bridge for the freight train over the channel. You can use trails in this corridor but only after spending millions of dollars to shoehorn everything in.

      The reality is that this project will go through this corridor, as has been clear for 10 years, despite all the public “outreach” the Met Council performed asking for citizen input. That input changed nothing and was a sham. And to argue that it’s the “route that made the most sense” ignores some pretty significant issues that have not been resolved.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/19/2018 - 11:48 am.

        I won’t get into a point by point match up here suffice to say that repeating false claims doesn’t work for anyone.

        I will take issue with one of Mr. Moran’s false claims: “Light rail is designed to take a large volume of people through a densely populated area.”

        Actually, no. The population density of the “area” through which light rail lines travel isn’t a primary design requirement or consideration. Again, this ISN’T a street car or urban bus route. What’s the population density between 50th street and MOA on the blue line for instance? And again, alternate routes were considered… and rejected for good reason. The primary function of LR is move people efficiently between selected destinations. There is obviously no requirement that LR routes pass through “densely” populated areas while traveling between those destinations. It’s the difference between an inner-city and an inter-city transit mode. The street car line planned for Nicollet will be a much more efficient and and economical option than LR would have been.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/19/2018 - 12:06 pm.

        I love it when people conclude that when public officials don’t do what they want that citizen input was ignored. The reality usually is that a vocal minority didn’t get their way, but most people support the projects in question and continue to elect candidates that support those projects

        • Submitted by Larry Moran on 11/19/2018 - 12:20 pm.

          I went to dozens of meetings where citizens were asked to express their opinion of various plans by placing post-it notes on large poster boards with maps of the route (I’m not kidding). As far as I know none of those comments were compiled into any set of broad categories with a response from the Met Council or HCRRA. I spent many hours with neighborhood groups, fashioning responses to various public documents where comments were solicited. Again, no summary set of comments were compiled or responded to. Nothing of this plan has changed in the 10+ years I’ve been following it except one thing: $300 million was added to the initial cost to change the route through Eden Prairie and Minnetonka. If you can show me where citizen concerns were addressed I will stand corrected. And a vocal minority should not be subjected to the tyranny of the majority, as a famous Frenchman once described democracy in America.

          • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/19/2018 - 01:57 pm.

            Good lord, we’re building a train, not resticting anyone’s civil rights.

            Again, having your concerns addressed doesn’t mean getting your way. You had your say, as did many others – including the voters who elected the politicians behind this.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/19/2018 - 06:24 pm.

    Did someone actually describe this as pristine urban wilderness? Surely you jest. This entire area was riddled with lumber yards, grain elevators, and a variety of other sundry commercial buildings for most of the last century. If you walk around back there today you likely trip over all the leftover debris lying around if you’re not careful. You can still walk on one of the old paved streets back about 20 feet off the bike path.

    There used to four times as many train tracks, that bridge everyone walks and cycles across the channel on… is an old RR bridge. And just in case someone doesn’t know it… that channel between the Cedar and Isles is an artificial water feature dug out by the Park Board 100 years ago.

    Minnpost did a nice story about the history of the place a while back, and it has some photos: https://www.minnpost.com/macro-micro-minnesota/2014/07/railroads-kenwood-and-metro-corridors-tensions-go-back-long-long-time/

    Sure, there’s a lot of shrubs and trees back in there but it’s about as “pristine” as my back yard.

    • Submitted by Larry Moran on 11/20/2018 - 09:39 am.

      Things change. Most of the last century Eden Prairie was farmland and Hopkins was full of strawberry fields; this corridor just went the other way, back to nature. The multiple tracks you talk about have been gone for 35 years; the lumber yard has been gone for 30. The photos in the story you linked to? The corridor looked nothing like that when I moved here in the 70s. People have put time, effort, and money into cleaning up everything that was left behind. Give people credit for making what many consider a positive change. Pristine? Probably not a pristine place within 50 miles of downtown MPLS, but this corridor is pretty nice to have within 5 miles of the middle of the city. And I’ve always wondered why MPLS has been pilloried for wanting to preserve some of this corridor while complaints from Eden Prairie and Minnetonka were rewarded with a new route (at a cost of $300 million) and an undisturbed corridor.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2018 - 09:45 am.

        Yes Mr. Moran, things change. I can see that you and some of your fellow residents like things the way they are, but that’s actually NOT a transit policy argument… it’s just you guy liking things the way they are and not wanting change. This is public policy, we’re building a transit system to serve millions of people in the metro area and we’ve spent millions of additional dollars in the Kenilworth corridor to address and mitigate your concerns.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/19/2018 - 06:31 pm.

    Sure it’s a tighter squeeze than the original plan called for, but that couldn’t be avoided once the freight rail company using those tracks decided to run much longer trains than they had been a decade before. And tight squeezes are not a unique feature, the tracks and trail that runs down to the river past the Twins Stadium is no less of a tight fit.

    If you think this tight fit is more expensive than running the line down Nicollet fine… show us your numbers. This was never going to an inexpensive project to begin with.

  11. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 11/19/2018 - 10:49 pm.

    Unlike the Green & Blue lines, this is the first line that actually has a majority of its’ need being getting folks to and from work: not facilitating trips to the mall and airport or getting from one downtown to the other. Add in Minnetonka and Plymouth spurs in coming years and we begin to look like a real metro area solving problems with solutions proven over time. Even if the Center for the American Experiment tells us we’ll all being scooting around in driver-less cars by 2024….

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/20/2018 - 09:09 am.

      Yes Mr. Blaise. I’ve always noticed the primary opponents tend to MPLS residents, which makes sense, but it’s also been something of a reflection of urban chauvinism pretending to be transit debate. This is the first of the lines to be built primarily outside MPLS delivering service outside city limits.

      I remind everyone that all transit in the cities is heavily subsidized by surrounding cities and citizens. Unlike every other city along the SWLRT route MPLS has put zero dollars into this (or any of the other) LR lines city dwellers are using every day. AND the Nicollet street car will likewise be subsidized by with state and regional dollars. Transit-wise the people of MPLS are getting a pretty good deal. I wish we didn’t have to keep reminding them of that.

      • Submitted by Larry Moran on 11/20/2018 - 10:44 am.

        No MPLS resident I’ve spoken with has objected to providing LRT to suburban cities. The objections come from spending $2 billion on a transit project that doesn’t benefit MPLS as much as it could. I think each city along the route has lobbied for changes that are specific to themselves–that makes sense. MPLS is no different.

        Looking at the sources of funding for the project, about $800 million is coming from Hennepin County and HCRRA, $30 million from the state of MN, $26 million from “other local contributors” (with no explanation), $8 million from “Eden Prairie Town Center Station” (not sure what that means), and of course $932 million from the federal government. I don’t know Hennepin County’s detailed source of revenues but I’m going to guess a large chunk comes from MPLS homes and businesses. How MPLS is being “heavily subsidized” by surrounding cities is unclear to me. Maybe you could explain that to us with some rough numbers.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 11/20/2018 - 11:52 am.

          29% Of Hennepin County tax base is in Mpls, 71% in suburbs.

          I agree that each municipality should and does fight for their own self interest. It’s when that self interest becomes NIMBY driven and simply tries to stop progress on a project that reflects the practices of every other major metropolitan area facing these issues.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2018 - 09:33 am.

          Just to clarify regarding funding, I’m talking about the city if MPLS when I point out that they are heavily subsidized and putting zero dollars into the LR lines construction and development. The county taxes MPLS residents pay into Henn Co. are obviously contributing. But unlike the rest of the cities like SLP Minneapolis itself make no financial contribution. As a resident of SLP I’m paying not only as a resident of Henn Co. but my city and it’s taxpayers are putting ADDITIONAL funding into the project as well. I’m not complaining I’m just making an observation.

          As for the best service MPLS could get, I can only point out yet again, your getting 4 LR lines and a street car line that will service Nicollet far better and more economically than running the Green Line down it would have. You ARE getting the best service with THIS route, your getting LR AND a street car line.

          We all know the practical effect of killing the Kenilworth route would have been to sink SWLRT all together so no one in MPLS ever had to complain about suburbs getting LR… they were just willing to kill it on the basis of multiple false and facile claims. I’m just saying that the willingness to kill the line didn’t go unnoticed.

          Among my circle of friends we all want better and improved transit in MPLS and St. Paul, and we’re not complaining about subsidizing it. But I gotta tell ya the urban chauvinism and NYMBY business associated with the Kenilworth route hasn’t been helpful. When 70% of your transit is subsidized by your neighbors it may not be a good idea to try to screw over those neighbors while demanding a better transit system.

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 11/21/2018 - 10:14 am.

            I very much agree with this sentiment. During the Kenilworth debate I would sometimes take notice of the loudest voices in opposition, check in at the Hennepin County property server and sure enough their love and devotion to the Kenilworth channel was directly proportional to their home’s distance from it. The “greater good” argument here is undeniable.

  12. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 11/20/2018 - 11:58 am.

    The backwardness of our transit system is one of the main disadvantages of the Twin Cities. Since 1986, Portland has built six light rail lines and is about to start on a seventh and has expanded its streetcar lines. The right-wing radio types keep calling them “choo-choos” and “toy trains,” but the voters, who elect their Metro Council, keep electing pro-transit councilors with two-thirds of the vote.

    I do not think that our Metro Council has chosen the best routings for its light rail lines. Still, the Blue Line is by far the cheapest and most efficient way to get to the airport, as long as you live near a bus line that intersects with it, and the Green Line is a major benefit for U of M student commuters. If the Green Line went to instead of avoiding the area where the Ordway, the Xcel Center, and the Science Museum are, it would be perfect and a great draw for Minneapolis residents.

    Naysayers may complain that they have no use for the two existing lines and that that is a reason for opposing the third one.

    But think of the early days of telephones. When the telephone was first invented, only rich people and a few upscale businesses had them. They were completely useless for the average person. It was only when telephone ownership permeated down to the middle class and became a must for every business that the average person felt that a telephone was a desirable thing to have.

    It’s the same with rail systems. The more rail lines there are, the more useful they are to more people. In Portland, I found that people became converts if you could persuade them to take a trip. Once they discovered that it was possible to go downtown or to the airport or some destination that was important to them without worrying about parking or traffic, they began using the train for at least some of their trips.

    During my ten years in Portland, five of my friends joined me in becoming car-free. That’s how good the system was.

    Unfortunately, since I left, a lot of car potato types have moved to the city, and they can’t get it through their heads how easy it is not to drive, even in the suburbs, so they complain about traffic, completely unaware that THEY are the traffic.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/21/2018 - 10:18 am.

    I’ll just say one more thing and then I’ll be quiet. Listen, the notion that the Kenilworth residents like Mr. Moran were ever fighting for better transit has never been credible. These are people who do not and most likely will not ever use transit on any regular basis, nor do they live along Nicollet Ave. The idea that this was ever about getting better transit for those who do live along Nicollet has always been a stretch. I think this has always been obvious to nearly everyone who’s been paying attention.

    So it’s always been obvious that this was simply about keeping the line OUT of Kenilworth… and that’s actually OK. People have right to voice their concerns and objections. The frustrating thing has always been the duplicity and multiple false claims to be fighting for something or someone else’s best interests or desires, specially when at times the agenda would harm fellow citizens elsewhere. But again, that’s OK, it may be frustrating, but it’s democracy.

    But these battles will always have consequences. In this case the project has been delayed by years and has/will cost several hundred millions more than it otherwise would have. We’ve also seen possible and unnecessary fault lines emerge between residents in different cities, and those are divisions we may ill afford. I’m not saying it was avoidable necessarily, but we should note the consequences.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/23/2018 - 09:09 am.

    OK, one last one last comment. This “debate” has been going on for so long that many have forgot that we’ve actually spent something like $200 million addressing Kenilworth residents concerns. We paid $100 million for two additional studies that revealed no new information, and we put another $50 million into physical modifications to mitigate noise, privacy, and aesthetic concerns. At one point an additional station was added but I don’t know if it’s still in the plan. So no one can claim that Kenilworth residents haven’t had their day or they voices heard.

  15. Submitted by Rodgers Adams on 12/04/2018 - 01:00 pm.

    Some folks don’t like the idea of rail transit, and some might put a higher priority on a different destination. But if you think light rail to the southwest suburbs is needed, the options for a route through Minneapolis soon come down to three: 1) The greenway and a tunnel under Eat Street on Nicollet; 2) A north-south line through St. Louis Park continuing into downtown roughly parallel to I-394, and 3) the Kenilworth Trail. Aside from the costs, the disruption from tearing up Eat Street for two years would bring political opposition far greater than the outcry over the Kenilworth route by bikers, walkers, and neighbors. And no local agency could overcome the federal law that gives railroads veto power over the St. Louis Park option. The Kenilworth route has flaws, but it ends up being the only feasible option between Eden Prairie and downtown.
    Common sense may be obscured in legal arguments, but the argument that the SWLRT project did not conduct sufficient ecological studies of alternate route avoids the question of what are those feasible alternatives. And, as the project moves ahead, the other question becomes: What relief can be granted to the critics? Isn’t a reprimand or fine more likely that a ruling killing the project in mid-stream?

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