Monthly Archives: June 2014

Photo of LRT Shallow Tunnel Construction

Here is what a light rail shallow tunnel looks like during construction.  This photo was provided to Park Watch by Susu Jeffrey and is of a tunnel under construction in St. Louis, Missouri in 2005.  According to Susu’s sources, the Met Council’s shallow tunnel plan would destroy 480 “significant” trees.  Total tree loss would be about 10,000 trees.  The waters of Lake of the Isles, Cedar and Calhoun Lakes are linked so dewatering damage would follow the Chain of Lakes.

Shallow_tunnel copy

KARE 11 Report on The Yard

The following segment by Reporter John Croman regarding The Yard was telecast by KARE 11 on June 9, 2014.  The original story can be viewed at
Park Watch note: The assumption expressed at the conclusion of the segment that the Park Board would own “The Yard,” but not run it is an incorrect assumption because “The Yard” is not a public park.

(Photo: KARE)

MINNEAPOLIS — A two-block green space built into the Ryan Companies’ Downtown East development will become a park known as The Yard, but it won’t function the way most Minneapolis parks do.

For starters the park will come with a minimum number of calendar dates already locked in for stadium-related events.

A four-way agreement: between Ryan Companies, The Vikings, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the City of Minneapolis guarantees a certain number of days will be reserved for activities connected to games and concerts.

The Vikings will get to use the park for up to 16 games per year, including 10 home games. The pact allows the team 72 hours for setting up and breaking down temporary structures connected to the fan experience. If the Vikings bring a professional soccer team to Minneapolis, the park will be reserved for those events too.

The team, in exchange for use of the public park, gave up on the idea of a large, year-round fan plaza that would’ve taken up nearly a city block.

The change came about when then-Mayor RT Rybak looked for ways to encourage Wells Fargo to locate its new corporate headquarters in the undeveloped blocks adjacent to the new Vikings stadium. The city agreed to finance acquisition of the new green space, and to pay for most of a parking ramp that will serve the Wells Fargo development and the new stadium.

The agreement also allows the stadium authority to use the eastern block of The Yard for 40 days, most likely concerts or amateur sporting events.

All combined, both blocks of the park would be set aside for events linked to the stadium up to 20 days a year, while the eastern block would be tied up as many as 60 days.

Public access as goal

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Martin Sabo to Urge Minneapolis to Reject Southwest LRT

The following announcement has been issued by LRT Done Right.  Their website is

Martin Sabo to Urge Minneapolis to Reject Southwest LRT


At a press conference this Thursday, former U.S. Congressman Martin Sabo, a national expert on transportation policy and finance, will urge Minneapolis city officials to vote no on the Met Council’s Southwest light rail proposal.

He will share his concerns about cost-effectiveness, the environment, the future of Metro area transit, and the bait-and-switch nature of the Met Council’s ever-morphing proposal to the City.

Thursday, June 19, 2014, 10:00 a.m.
Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda
(near the Father of Waters statue)

Congressman Sabo represented Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 2007. He was the ranking member of the U.S. House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee and chaired the House Budget Committee. He recently co-chaired the National Transportation Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, along with former Mayor Dennis Archer (D-Detroit), former Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), and former Senator Slade Gorton (R-Wash.). He served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1960 to 1978, including as Speaker of the House from 1973 to 1978.

Heads-up for the June 18, 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 Stevens Square Playground Improvements.  Those wishing to speak can sign up at the meeting

Some agenda items of interest:

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Deadlines loom for $1.68 billion Southwest light-rail project

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the June 13, 2014 issue of the StarTribune.

Deadlines loom for $1.68 billion Southwest light-rail project


Minneapolis has yet to schedule a public hearing. The four other cities along the future light-rail route have already held hearings — a step required before cities can vote on the plans within the next month.

As deadlines loom for the $1.68 billion Southwest Corridor light-rail project, concern is growing that Minneapolis hasn’t scheduled a public hearing needed to move it forward.

The four other cities along the future light-rail route have already held hearings — a step required before cities can vote on the plans within the next month.

Hopkins City Council Member Cheryl Youakim said she’d like assurances that Minneapolis will hold a hearing soon “so we can keep the project on track.” At a recent gathering of metro leaders, Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens also questioned a Minneapolis official about the city’s plans for a hearing.

The Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the project, has cited state law in setting a July 14 deadline for a vote on the project by the cities and Hennepin County. A spokeswoman for Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said this week that the city will hold a hearing in time to meet the deadline for that vote on whether to grant consent.

“I’m not sure why one hasn’t been scheduled,” said spokeswoman Kate Brickman.

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Southwest Light Rail in Minneapolis: Who Will Be Held Accountable?

The following article was written by Patty Schmitz, a member of LRT Done Right, and published in the May 23, 2014 issue of the Hill and Lake Press.  It is a long and detailed article and an excellent one well worth reading:

Southwest Light Rail in Minneapolis: Who Will Be Held Accountable?

While neighbors in our neck of the woods have found themselves put on the defensive for not being “good regional citizens”, a recap of how we find ourselves in this unfortunate decision is in order.

Governor Dayton summed it up well:

“The potential conflict between light-rail and freight trains could easily have been foreseen by Met Council staff, the planners and the like, at least five years if not10 years ahead of now. “ Gov. Mark Dayton. This quote appeared in the Star Tribune on April 9, the same day the Met Council voted to approve the SWLRT design which includes co-location of freight and LRT in the Kenilworth Corridor. At the meeting, Met Council members justified their vote in part with the notion that “we cannot wait until we have achieved perfection.”

What no Met Council member asked, or seemed concerned about is this: how could a conflict of this magnitude that “could easily be foreseen” be overlooked?  Who is responsible? And should it really fall upon Minneapolis to literally be the “fall guy” for this enormous public oversight?

Let’s start with a brief history of the SWLRT.

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Troubled Southwest LRT line creates problems in Minnetonka, too

The following article by Marlys Harris was posted in MinnPost on June 3, 2014

Troubled Southwest LRT line creates problems in Minnetonka, too

The push-me-pull-you between Minneapolis and St. Louis Park over the simultaneous running of freight trains and the proposed light-rail line through the Kenilworth Corridor has sucked up so much time, money and attention that there’s almost none left over to go around to other places. Like Minnetonka.

To go forward, the Southwest LRT, which is slated to travel from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, must win the consent of all the municipalities along its right of way. So far, only St. Louis Park has held hearings, and citizens testified that the city should approve but with a proviso that there absolutely be no rerouting of a freight train, now in Minneapolis, through their community.

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Park Board Won’t Sign Off on SWLRT Tunnel Without Further Study

The following article by Ben Johnson was published in the June 5, 2014 issue of the Southwest Journal:

Park Board warns it won’t sign off on SWLRT tunnel without further study

Last week the Park Board passed a resolution that warned it won’t approve a shallow tunnel underneath the Kenilworth Channel for the Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) line without further study.

The Park Board’s power to influence SWLRT comes from Section 4(f) of the Federal Transportation Act: . It states that federal transportation funds may not be dispersed for any project that affects parks or historic sites unless there is “no feasible and prudent avoidance alternative” for use of the land or property.
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Ostrow: No Agreements on ‘The Yard’

The following letter, dated June 10, 2014, by Minneapolis resident and former City Council Member Paul Ostrow was published in the Southwest Journal:

It is not too late — there are no agreements

Kudos to David Brauer for his outstanding reporting: on the extent of the private use of “the Yard.”  Mr. Brauer, however, joins in the mistake virtually every reporter has made in covering this debate. Contrary to press coverage, there are no legally binding agreements as to the ownership, use or operation of “the Yard.” In fact, there are no binding agreements that “the Yard” will be a park at all. There are no binding legal agreements because a necessary party to all those agreements — the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board — has not agreed to anything.

In his rulings issued in December 2013 Judge Mel Dickstein was unequivocal in his conclusion that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has the exclusive authority to “own, operate and maintain” parks in the City. The only reason that he denied the Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction was that both the City Attorney and MPRB attorney assured the judge in open court that the parties were working well together and that the MPRB was in favor of the project.  For this reason and for this reason alone Judge Dickstein considered the litigation premature.

It is remarkable and troubling that even following the Court’s unambiguous ruling the Mayor and City Council entered into an agreement in February purporting to govern the use of “the Yard.”  The good news for the public is that we really can have a “do over” — we can go back to square one.

This time let’s get it right.  We need a new agreement that requires the Vikings to reimburse the public for a substantial portion of the diverted parking ramp revenues from municipal ramps and ensures the greatest possible public use of “the Yard.”