Mayor Rybak calls for intense study of Southwest LRT options during 90-day delay

rybak
MinnPost file photo by Terry Gydesen
“If we spend 90 days just thinking about stuff, this will be a failure.”

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he wants the 90-day delay in firming up plans for the Southwest Light Rail Line to be a time of intense study of the options.

The key vote, originally scheduled for this week by the Metropolitan Council, was delayed for 90 days on Tuesday by Gov. Mark Dayton. The delay is meant to allow more study of alternate routes for freight trains and to assure that the planned shallow tunnels envisioned for part of the route will not harm the water quality in the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes.

The move came after Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak cast the only vote against the project during a meeting of metro officials.

“If we spend 90 days just thinking about stuff, this will be a failure,” said Rybak of the need for clear results. “Light rail lines are like sharks,” he said. “If they don’t move, they die.” 

After the delay was announced, Rybak said: “I will not support this with questions about the lakes still outstanding and without being fully convinced that all options have been looked at. If our questions are answered and it’s clear there was an honest look at other options that produced nothing, I will support moving ahead on this.”

For the last five years, Minneapolis has supported light rail at grade level on the narrow strip of land between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles known as the Kenilworth Corridor. That support came following a promise to the city by Hennepin County that the corridor’s current freight trains would be moved to a new location.

“The history on this is clear. The county pushed the idea of the Kenilworth Corridor over our objections,” said Rybak, recalling that the project was a tough sell to those living along the route who did not want all of the trains in their neighborhood.

“Those who say that we’re being inflexible forget that we went with someone else’s alignment, built the political support we needed, had the tough conversations, and an area that may not even have a stop was willing to accept 220 trains a day for the greater good of the region,” said Rybak.

One option suggested was to move the freight lines to St. Louis Park and elevate the trains on two-story-high earthen berms.

“About the last thing in the world I would recommend for St. Louis Park are the 20-foot berms through neighborhoods,” said Rybak, who started his journalism career at the St. Louis Park Sun newspaper. “That’s a crazy idea. Take that off the table.”

If the full 90 days are allowed to pass before the delayed vote by the Metropolitan Council, it will be January and a new mayor will have been sworn in.

“I don’t imagine there’s somebody who will sit in this chair who will be easy on this issue,” said Rybak, who does not think his lame-duck status will affect the outcome. He says he will continue to work on this issue as a private citizen. “I’m not going to Oz.”

“The one thing that I absolutely refuse to have any part of would be anything that has a negative impact on the Chain of Lakes,” said Rybak.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by ALAN BELISLE on 10/16/2013 - 09:30 am.

    SWLRT

    There is no good solution for the East end of the route into Mpls. And the West end of the route is just stupid. The latest plan puts it through areas with no parking and little access. It has stops where there are not enough people to justify a stop. It runs over a swamp that regularly eats a strip mall’s sewers. It duplicates an already existing fast, comfortable, efficient bus route. It does not go near Hennepin Tech, which could really use it. Bad plan all around. Let’s kill this nonsense and use the money for something useful.

    • Submitted by David Greene on 10/16/2013 - 12:23 pm.

      SW LRT is Excellent

      SW LRT and its current alignment is excellent. It hits the major job centers in the southwest suburbs, connects to existing bus service in those suburbs, brings an entirely new transit connection from North Minneapolis to jobs and education opportunities in those suburbs and serves people heading both directions in the corridor. In addition, it will provide access to the many suburban immigrant communities, low-income communities and communities of color. These are the places that need this investment the most!

      There has been a lot of misinformation thrown out about this project by those with very personal grudges against it. This line serves Minneapolis residents, it serves immigrants, it serves people of color, it serves white people. It is NOT just a commuter line for white suburbanites as some have suggested.

      SW LRT is the biggest equity engine we currently have going in the state!

  2. Submitted by Michael Friedman on 10/16/2013 - 11:56 am.

    Uptown

    If there’s money for tunnels, there’s money to shift the Minneapolis stops to better serve its own residents. Abandon the Kenwood stop and go back to earlier options.

  3. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/16/2013 - 12:40 pm.

    Options

    One thing that’s been sorely missing from this while debate is a concise list of the pros and cons of each route. All I’ve seen so far is a lot of articles from people saying “I want this” or “I don’t want that.” What we really need is a list so people can see what each option is, the advantages and disadvantages of each one, the projected costs, and a brief write-up of the objections. It should also include the unknowns, such as the impact to water flow that a shallow or deep tunnel will have.

    Then we can make a sound decision without all the hand waving from people who say ~I~ think this or that is better when they don’t have all the facts in.

  4. Submitted by Paul Linnee on 10/16/2013 - 01:35 pm.

    Remember the bigger picture

    As this issue has plodded along, I think it has been a strategic error to continue to refer to it as the SW LRT. In actuality, it is an extension of the LRT Green line that begins at Union depot in St. Paul and ends up someplace out in the SW suburbs. To not keep that holistic understanding of the regionalism of this line is to miss the point. Any discussions about the route this Green Line SW extension should take must keep in mind the centrality of it needing to marry up with the other end of the Green Line. To my way of thinking, it is this need to have the full Green Line pass through The Interchange ( Target Field area), share the 5th street tracks in downtown Mpls, pass the Metrodome/Mega-stadium site, and pass thru the U of M that must be kept in mind.

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