The following article by Sarah McKenzie was published in the August 29, 2013 issue of the Southwest Journal. It is posted here to provide background information on the current Southwest LRT controversy.
Mayoral candidates weigh in on Southwest LRT
The candidates for Minneapolis mayor discussed what to do about the increasingly contentious Southwest LRT line, among other topics, at a debate hosted by former MPR radio host Gary Eichten at the State Fair earlier today (Note: the debate took place on August 26; see http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/08/26/mpr_news_presents ).
The proposed light rail line, which would link downtown and Eden Prairie, is facing opposition from Minneapolis and St. Louis Park about proposed plans to deal with freight traffic reroutes.
Minneapolis homeowners and community leaders object to co-locating the LRT line next to existing freight train traffic in the Kenilworth Corridor, and St. Louis park officials and residents are also opposed to having freight trains rerouted to the city.
Here’s a recap of what the candidates said they would do to resolve the impasse over the light-rail line:
Stephanie Woodruff (DFLer with endorsement of the Independence Party) said “cluster” comes to mind when thinking about the issue. She said it’s “best to put the brakes” on the project to make sure all the involved parties can come to an agreement on the best way to deal with freight train traffic. “We got to come to an understanding and get this figured out,” she said.
Cam Winton (independent) said community leaders should pick the “least bad option” to ensure the project moves ahead. He doesn’t support rerouted freight traffic in St. Louis Park and has advocated putting a LRT line down the Midtown Greenway and Nicollet Avenue.
Jackie Cherryhomes (DFL) said she’s worked on the issue for six years and noted that Winton’s idea has been rejected. She said there’s not space to accommodate bike lanes, freight trains and LRT along the Kenilworth Corridor. She said options for rerouting freight traffic in St. Louis Park need to be pursued.
Mark Andrew (DFL) said a “mayor can’t be part of a local food fight,” adding “the mayor has to be a positive player in resolving the problem.” He referenced a previous agreement that had St. Louis Park leaders agreeing to take on new freight-rail traffic in exchange for cleanup money to deal with the polluted Golden Auto site in the city.
Betsy Hodges (DFL) said “all options on the table” need to be reexamined. She raised concerns about building a shallow or deep tunnel for the LRT line in the Kenilworth Corridor, noting it’s unclear what the environmental impacts would be on the nearby lakes. “I’m running to be mayor of the City of Lakes, not the city of swamps,” she said
Bob Fine (DFL) noted he is against co-location of freight trains and the LRT in the Kenilworth Corridor. He also objects to building a deep tunnel in the corridor for the line, saying it would be too expensive.