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Winton offers plan to break Minneapolis-St. Louis Park stalemate over light rail

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Cam Winton says the two cities should work together to put the line along the Midtown Greenway.

The stalemate between Minneapolis and St. Louis Park about which trains go where in the design of the Southwest Light Rail Line might be broken if the two cities band together and the line is re-routed along the Midtown Greenway, says Minneapolis mayoral candidate Cam Winton.

Minneapolis Mayor's Race“What we have are a bunch of really bad options,” Winton said Thursday at news conference on the Greenway.

Winton suggests that both cities withhold municipal consent to any plans that move freight lines to St. Louis Park or put both light rail and the freight lines on the Kenilworth Corridor in Minneapolis.

“If the Met Council thinks they can build this project without municipal consent, respectfully, they are mistaken,” said Winton, who indicated that if the Metropolitan Council tried to move ahead without the consent of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, lawsuits could tie up for project for years.

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“The path we’re going down now leads to no project, leads to no trains,” said Winton. “We can avoid all of that mess if we just put the train line in the right place, and that’s the Midtown Greenway and north on Nicollet.”

While Winton was holding the news conference, light rail planners were coming up with new costs estimates and another mayoral candidate, Jackie Cherryhomes, was sending out a news release with some ligh-rail ideas of her own.

First, the cost estimates. Originally the price tag for the light-rail line was set at $1.25 billion. Last week that figure was revised upward by $420 million. The price went up another $150 million this week, for a total so far of $1.82 billion.

In her news release, Cherryhomes was critical of the light-rail route through urban greenways that could destroy recreation trails and what she called “ballooning cost over runs before construction even begins.”

She also said the federal rules for funding transit projects have changed since the project began and that the new focus is on the number of passengers served.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Cam Winton
MinnPost photo by Karen BorosMinneapolis mayoral candidate Cam Winton speaking at his Midtown Greenway press conference on Thursday.

“This means the project should be focused on an area of density. As mayor, I would work with the City Council to examine all the alternatives and withhold municipal consent if the critical issues facing residents of the Kenilworth Corridor are not addressed,” Cherryhomes said in the news release.

These two candidates seem to have found an issue where they agree on two points: withhold municipal consent and focus on density. 

“The population density is much higher along the Midtown Greenway and Nicollet than it is in the Kenilworth Corridor,” said Winton, who noted that since the route was selected in 2009 and 2010, population numbers along the Greenway have grown significantly. “What we have now is a choice to put a transit line though the woods or put a transit line where people live.

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Jackie Cherryhomes
MinnPost photo by Karen BorosJackie Cherryhomes

“I believe in transit when it’s smart. A streetcar is dumb transit. Light rail, if done properly, is smart transit,” said Winton. “Light rail through the woods that ruins a precious resource in the form of the Kenilworth bike trails is dumb transit.”

The Midtown Greenway has room to retain the bike trails it now has and for the light-rail line, according to Winton.

He sees the current proposals as offering little to either the residents of Minneapolis or those living in St. Louis Park.

“As a neighbor, as aMinnesotan, I can’t look at my neighbors in St. Louis Park and say I support an option that would run new freight lines on 20-foot-high berms through their town,” he said. “It’s just not right.

“As currently proposed, with light rail being co-located [with freight trains] through the woods, this project does very little for residents of Minneapolis.”

A plan to bury with light-rail line in a deep tunnel as it moves through the Kenilworth Corridor and run freight lines directly overhead at ground level is too expensive, according to Winton.  The estimated cost of the deep tunnel would be $420 million. He also said a plan for running light rail in a trench for $200 million does little to resolve objections to the line.

The Metropolitan Council is scheduled to select the location of the freight and light-rail lines Aug. 28.