The Minneapolis City Council Friday became the last city on the route of the Southwest Light Rail Transit project to give its formal consent to the alignment.
After some confusion as to which council members were supporting which aspect of the complex set of memoranda, resolutions and staff directions, the final vote on municipal consent was 10-3. Voting no were council members Barbara Johnson, Cam Gordon and Lisa Goodman.
Even those voting yes, though, offered explanations as to why a no vote could have been the result as well. Council members repeated concerns about the route; the threats to the environment in the Chain of Lakes area; the doubts as to whether what has been dubbed the “Equity Train” will actually serve people of color in North Minneapolis; and whether the council should be acting before a revised environmental impact statement is released.
But the 10 yes voters, at least those who spoke, said moving ahead with the latest expansion of light rail transit is an important regional project. And they said they believed that the various side agreements with the Metropolitan Council and directions to staff to closely monitor the pending supplemental environmental impact statement — along with promises to address equity concerns — will protect the city in the future.
“We made a very clear statement that we will stop this train if it threatens our city’s, our region’s, environmental resources,” said Council Member Lisa Bender.
The most vociferous opponent was Goodman, who represents the city ward taking on most of the ill-effects of the alignment. “Ultimately this is about what we can afford and what we can’t afford,” said Goodman. “What we can’t afford, in my opinion, is the self-inflicted damage of this alignment, surrendering to pressures to act against our own cty’s best interests.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges challenged the Met Council to make good on verbal commitments to address concerns that the transit system doesn’t treat people of color equally. “The Met Council characterizes this as an Equity Train but that is beyond inaccurate,” Hodges said. “Until the Met Council makes concrete decisions and takes actions on those decisions, this is a train and by no means is it an Equity Train.”
The supplemental EIS is due early next year. A statement issued by the Met Council staff said “anyone, including cities and the public, will have an opportunity to comment on the SDEIS.” If substantial changes need to be made to the design, the Met Council “would have to seek further municipal consent as appropriate under state law.”
The 16-mile extension of the Green Line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie could start service by 2019.