The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the October 18, 2013 issue of the Star Tribune. The full article, with any associated images and links can be viewed here: http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/228273791.html
ST. LOUIS PARK BALKS AT GOV. DAYTON’S SOUTHWEST LIGHT-RAIL PLAN
St. Louis Park on Thursday threatened to fight any new attempt to reroute freight trains into its community to make room for the Southwest Corridor light-rail line in a recreational corridor of Minneapolis.
In a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton, St. Louis Park Mayor Jeffrey Jacobs wrote that “it will be difficult to see a path forward” if another study leads policymakers to recommend a new freight route through the suburb.
Jacobs threatened that the suburb would withhold consent for a reroute, a move that could jeopardize the metro area’s largest transit project.
Metro leaders had rejected moving the freight onto two-story berms in St. Louis Park and instead chose to keep it in the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis and to bury the light rail in tunnels next to it. But Minneapolis objected, and Dayton this week agreed to take a fresh look at ways to reroute the freight.
The Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the project, is hiring a consultant to examine alternatives. There have been several options for rerouting freight through St. Louis Park over the years.
Met Council Chair Susan Haigh said Wednesday that the study would “look at the freight rail relocation alternatives that have already been studied … is there anything we missed, is there another relocation alternative that would be viable?”
Jacobs said the decision to re-evaluate options for rerouting freight in St. Louis Park “appears misguided,” arguing that past studies have shown the reroutes would hurt property owners or pose safety problems.
Dayton press secretary Matt Swenson said Wednesday that the option of putting freight on two-story berms wouldn’t be revisited, but other possible freight reroutes in St. Louis Park could be considered.
Minneapolis officials and some residents near the corridor have opposed the plan to bury light-rail tunnels under bike and pedestrian trails near freight tracks on either side of a channel between two lakes. They have pressed the Met Council to move the freight out of the corridor.
Jacobs complained that Dayton made his announcement after meeting Tuesday with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and key Minneapolis legislators.
“At a minimum, St. Louis Park leaders and its legislators should have had a place at that meeting before an announcement was made,” Jacobs wrote Dayton.
“The governor’s going to be inviting city officials from St. Louis Park to a meeting next week to discuss all of this,” Swenson said. “The mayor’s letter is really typical of everyone who is involved in this project in that everyone is in favor of the project as long as it doesn’t affect them.”