Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dispute Over Southwest Light Rail Delays Opening to 2019 or Later

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the March 27, 2014 edition of the StarTribune. The full article, with any associated images and links, can be viewed here:


Transit planners say delays in the Southwest Corridor light-rail project will likely push back its opening to 2019 or 2020 — a year or more beyond its scheduled start — and help push the price tag from $1.5 billion to as high as $1.8 billion.

The latest setback was revealed Wednesday at a meeting of metro leaders who are poised to make a recommendation on whether to hide the light-rail line in tunnels alongside freight trains in the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis or reroute the freight in St. Louis Park.

But there appeared to be little support outside of Minneapolis on Wednesday for rerouting the freight, an option that could delay the opening of the line even longer. Minneapolis officials have opposed one tunnel plan and expressed doubts about other tunnel options offered as a compromise.

“The city is not convinced that is … real,” Peter Wagenius, top policy aide to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, said afterward.


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Doug Moore: Elevate the Trails in Kenwood

The following letter to the editor dated March 28, 2014, by Doug Moore was published in the Southwest Journal:

Elevate the trails in Kenilworth

So much good thinking has gone into the Southwest Light Rail project. Yet it’s still possible we are overlooking a radically simpler, lower-cost option: move the trails and improve the experience at the same time.

Of all the pieces of the puzzle, trails carrying humans, pets and bikes should pose much lower-cost design challenges than massive train infrastructure. Relocated and in places elevated trails wouldn’t require the heavy landscaping, irrigation and retrofitting costs that made the High Line in Manhattan so expensive. But it could become as dynamic a section as the High Line. All we need is enough pavement to accommodate two bike and one pedestrian lane, safely separated from the tracks. Personally I can’t wait to fly through the trees on what would be a new destination stretch in our trail system!

Let’s tap the wisdom of our talented design community and develop a much more cost-effective solution. Let’s build our own, better version of the High Line — maybe the “Fly Line?” Build a source of local and even national interest while we’re at it. Set a dramatically lower budget and design to it.

We need the rail line, we want the trails — so let’s get creative instead of digging ourselves into more expensive, entrenched thinking.

Doug Moore

Heads-Up for the April 2, 2014 Park Board Meeting

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers can call 612-230-6400 before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up or they can sign up at the Board meeting prior to the start of “Open Time.”

6:30 P.M. PUBLIC HEARING for Xcel Field Concept Plan Approval

Some agenda items of interest:


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Crown Hydro Letter to FERC March 26, 2014

The following letter to FERC, which has been reformatted for posting on Park Watch, is from the Washington, DC Law Offices of Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke, P.C. on behalf of Crown Hydro.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

March 26, 2014

Ms. Kimberly Bose
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Mail Code: DHAC, PJ-12.6
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426

Re: Submission of a FERC Form 80 on Recreational Usage for the Crown Mill Hydroelectric Project, Project No. 11175

Dear Secretary Bose:

Crown Hydropower, LLC (“Crown”) is the licensee for the Crown Mill Hydroelectric Project, FERC Project No. 11175 (“Project”). The Project, as yet, is unconstructed, and Crown has been diligently pursuing an application for an amendment of its license for the Project. To that end, on February 25, 2014, Crown submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission” or “FERC”) a schedule for the development of an application for an amendment to the Project license.

At that time, Crown reported that it had convened a public meeting and had received numerous comment letters from individual members of the public as well as from resource agencies. Crown also reported that, through this process, resource agencies and the public identified a number of studies to be performed or specific concerns that warranted further consideration as Crown proceeded to develop a final license application. One such concern that several resource agencies and the general public raised was the amendment’s effect on the ability of residents and the public to continue using the area within the vicinity of the project as a recreation center. Therefore, in its February 25th submission, Crown committed to perform a Recreation Study.

Crown is in receipt of a January 23, 2014 letter from Dr. Mark Ivy of FERC’s Division of Hydropower and Compliance that reminds Crown of the obligation, pursuant to 18 C.F.R. § 8.11, to gather recreation usage data for the Project in order to complete and submit by April 1, 2015 a FERC Form 80. Crown notes that the January 23rd letter indicates that only those projects that are operational as of January 1, 2014 need to comply with the requirement to submit a FERC Form 80 by April 1, 2015.1 For that reason, Crown has concluded that it is not required to submit a FERC Form 80 by April 1,2015 or collect recreation data beginning March 15, 2014 for use in the FERC Form 80.Please let us know if any further information is required in this matter.

Further, Crown submits that the Recreation Study that it is currently designing will be instructive as to the level of recreation usage of the project area. Crown will submit the results of this study to the Commission at the appropriate time.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Respectfully Submitted,

Donald H. Clarke
Joshua E. Adrian

Counsel to Crown Hydropower, LLC

MPR Reports on New Southwest LRT Tunnel Plan

The following MPR report by Cathy Wurzer was broadcast on March 13, 2014:


There is yet another new proposal on the table to solve one of the trickiest questions about the proposed Southwest light rail line. The big sticking point has been how to fit a bike trail, freight rail tracks and new light rail tracks through the narrow and scenic Kenilworth Corridor between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

A plan to bury the new tracks in a deep tunnel through the area was shelved because it was too expensive. And neighbors oppose a proposal for a cheaper, “shallow tunnel” where the light rail trains would have to surface long enough to cross a channel between the lakes.

The latest proposal was described by one county commissioner as the “the deeper shallow tunnel.” At the request of Minneapolis Park Board commissioners, the Metropolitan Council is now looking into a hybrid of the tunnel plans that would take trains under the channel after all.

MPR’s Cathy Wurzer spoke with Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb, who represents the Kenilworth area, about it. You can listen to the interview here:

• Related: Planners present new ‘deeper shallow tunnel’ option for Southwest light rail route (March 13, 2014)

Southwest LRT: Consultant Reports now Available

The Southwest LRT (METRO Green Line Extension): Independent Consultants’ Final Reports Are Now Available.


Independent Consultant Final Reports Available

The independent consultants’ final reports on freight rail location alternatives and water resources impacts, as well as the final Kenilworth tree inventory, are now available for your reference. You can find the final reports on the project’s website through the following link:

About the Project:

The Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project will operate from downtown Minneapolis through the communities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie, passing in close proximity to the City of Edina. The proposed alignment is primarily at-grade and includes 17 new stations and approximately 15.8-miles of double track. The line will connect major activity centers in the region including downtown Minneapolis, the Opus/Golden Triangle employment area in Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, the Eden Prairie Center Mall, and the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. Ridership in 2030 is projected at 29,660 weekday passengers.


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Condo, Townhouse Residents Prefer Freight Trains to Light Rail Traffic

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the Star Tribune and updated on March 13, 2014:



Resident groups say they’d rather have freight trains than ground-level light rail, and they complain Minneapolis is ignoring their concerns in Southwest fight.

Minneapolis townhouse and condo owners in the Kenilworth corridor complain that Mayor Betsy Hodges and the City Council are ignoring their concerns about the future Southwest light-rail transit line.

The groups say the city officials are focusing on moving freight trains out of the corridor to make room for the light-rail line to run at ground level at the expense of nearby townhouses and condos.

“We are concerned that you may have lost sight of the residential impact on homeowners if the LRT runs ‘at grade,’?” they wrote in a letter to Hodges and council members.

The mayor and council members have called for rerouting the freight trains to St. Louis Park so the light rail could run at ground level next to bike and pedestrian trails in the corridor. St. Louis Park doesn’t want the freight traffic.

The townhouse and condo groups, representing 166 homeowners at the narrowest part of the corridor, would rather keep freight trains there and put the light rail in tunnels under the existing bike and pedestrian trails.

Peter Wagenius, a policy aide to the mayor, said he met with representatives of the groups in January. “The mayor and the City Council disagree with the associations on the best way to protect the Kenilworth Corridor,” he said, “but we will continue to work on mitigations in any scenario.”

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Southwest Light-Rail Planners Woo Minneapolis Critics with New Tunnel Idea

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the March 12, 2014 issue of the StarTribune:


The Cedar Lake Trail alongside a current freight train track that has been a proposal site for the Southwest Corridor light rail line in St. Louis Park, Minn.

Photo by Renee Jones Schneider

In an effort to win over Minneapolis critics of the Southwest Light Rail project, its planners are pursuing spending more money to hide the transit in tunnels under a water channel and as well as underground in a recreational corridor near the Chain of Lakes.

The latest option on the table would add as much as $85 million to the cost of the project, potentially bringing it to over $1.6 billion.

The Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the light rail project, unveiled the new tunnel option Wednesday at a meeting of metro leaders where it received a cautious reception from Minneapolis officials.

“I really have to talk to my boss,” said Peter Wagenius, the top policy aide to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.

“It’s potentially helpful,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.

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Small Railroad at Center of LRT has Big Stake

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the Star Tribune and updated on  March 21, 2014:


Air brakes squealing and hissing, the locomotives painted Minnesota Gophers maroon and gold lurched to a stop at grain elevators towering over snow-swept farmland.

It’s music to the people who count on the small central Minnesota railroad to reach big markets.

“Huge,” said Jeff Nielsen, who runs the grain silos in Brownton.

But when the Twin Cities & Western rolls into the Twin Cities, just 55 miles away, it’s a huge problem. The city of Minneapolis demands that it be rerouted from a recreational corridor to a St. Louis Park neighborhood to make room for the future Southwest Corridor light-rail line. St. Louis Park says no way.

The stalemate threatens to kill the $1.5 billion light-rail project — the biggest in the Twin Cities — after 15 years of planning and engineering work.

The metro feud is foreign to the operators of grain silos and ethanol plants between the Twin Cities and the South Dakota border who see the TC&W as friend, not foe.

“The rail is the main source of shipping out our grain,” said Allen Baysinger, manager of South Central Grain & Energy in Buffalo Lake. “It affects a lot of people.”

That impact is one reason the federal government gives railroads a loud voice in deciding whether their rail lines can be rerouted. Even a small player like TC&W, running maybe seven to 10 trains a day compared with 1,500 by BNSF Railway Co., can exert near-veto power.

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Doug Verdier’s February 26, 2014 Letter to FERC

On February 26, 2014 Doug Verdier submitted a letter to FERC requesting that FERC immediately terminate the existing Crown Hydro License.  The complete text is below.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch


Douglas L. Verdier
401 S. 1st St., #222
Minneapolis, MN 55401

February 26, 2014

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20426

SUBJECT: Crown Mill Hydroelectric Project,
Project No. P-11175-024-Minnesota

RE: Letter, Feb. 25, 2014, from Law Offices Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke, P.C. to FERC in regards to Schedule for Development of License Amendment for the above subject project.

Dear Secretary Bose:

In reviewing the responses to agency and public concerns outlined in the referenced letter, I note the omission of any mention of the concerns presented in a March 15, 2012 letter from the Department of the Army, St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers to Mr. Richard M. Greenlee, Engineering Partners, Int’l, LLC, representing Crown Hydro. This letter was a follow-up to a March 1, 2012 meeting between Corps and Crown representatives. I can find no evidence that Crown has ever responded to the concerns raised by the Corps about the project’s proposed relocation.

In addition, a letter dated April 15, 2013 from Mr. Edward A. Abrams, Director, Division of Hydropower Administration and Compliance, to Mr. Thomas H. Griffin, President, Crown Hydro, LLC, with copy to Mr. Donald H. Clarke, Counsel to Crown Hydro, LLC, has likewise been ignored. Mr. Abrams in his letter states very clearly “an amendment of license is not the appropriate vehicle for Crown Hydro’s current proposal.” He goes on to say: “The differences between the licensed project and Crown Hydro’s current proposal are great enough to conclude that it is essentially a different project than the one analyzed in the 1990s and would require a new technical, engineering, and environmental analysis.”

It appears that Crown is deliberately continuing a pattern of repeatedly ignoring responding to concerns raised by the Corps of Engineers and a number of concerned individuals and organizations, as well as FERC’s notification that pursuit of an amendment for what is essentially a new project is not appropriate.

I urge FERC to immediately terminate the existing Crown Hydro license. The new Crown Hydro proposal constitutes an entirely new project at a new location, and should require a new license.

Best Regards,

Douglas L. Verdier