MPRB Resolution on SWLRT tunnel consultant

Below is the text of the resolution passed by MPRB on October 1, which calls for hiring an outside engineering consultant to perform a more detailed study of a deep tunnel under the Kenilworth channel.  The Metropolitan Council abandoned the tunnel idea because they felt it was too expensive.  MPRB believes it would help reduce the impact of the Southwest light rail line on the Kenilworth corridor.  More information about the resolution is given in a previously-posted article, https://mplsparkwatch.org/2014/10/06/park-board-votes-to-study-southwest-light-rail-tunnel/  

MPRB Resolution on SWLRT tunnel consultant

Whereas, Current plans for the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project (SWLRT) bring the alignment over the Kenilworth Channel, co-locating freight, light rail and trail in the Kenilworth corridor and require massive at-grade infrastructure in and around the Kenilworth Channel that will fundamentally and permanently affect and change park, recreation areas, and historic property;

Whereas, In August, 2013, the MPRB Board of Commissioners passed Resolution 2013-282 stating a position on the preliminary engineering options for the proposed SWlRT through the Kenilworth corridor;

Whereas, Through Resolution 2014-114 in February 2014, the MPRB notified the SWLRT Project Office of the MPRB’s concern about the project and its effect on parkland and requested the SWLRT Project Office to conduct preliminary engineering feasibility and cost analysis of tunneling under the Kenilworth Channel;

Whereas, In Resolution 2014-209 the MPRB has stated its position that, based on SWLRT Project Office preliminary finding of feasibility, tunneling LRT under the Kenilworth Channel may be the only Section 4(f) prudent and feasible alternative;

Whereas, In Resolution 2014-209 the MPRB requested that the SWLRT Project Office continue necessary design and engineering studies to determine the feasibility and prudence of a tunnel under the Kenilworth Channel;

Whereas, The Metropolitan Council has not directed project office staff to develop the tunnel under the channel to the same level as the bridge option and has declined to conduct additional analysis;

Whereas, The Park Board’s General Counsel, Rice, Michels & Walther and Special Counsel Stinson Leonard Street have both opined that MPRB land affected by the proposed SWLRT alignment meets the definition of “public park,” “recreation area,” and “historic site” under Section 4(f) and those park, recreation area and historic sites will be directly and adversely affected by the proposed SWLRT alignment;

Whereas, Both General and Special Counsels have advised that the proposed SWLRT alignment has failed to properly consider a tunnel under the Kenilworth Channel to determine if it is a prudent and feasible alternative and further that the proposed SWLRT alignment has not included all possible planning to minimize the harm to the park, recreation areas, and historic sites;

Whereas, Both General and Special Counsel have advised that that the proposed SWLRT alignment will not meet the de minimis requirements of Section 4(f) and as such they have both advised the MPRB to not provide any concurrence with such SWLRT alignment to the United States Secretary of Transportation and that such concurrence would be necessary for the SWLRT project to proceed;

Whereas, Both General and Special Counsels have advised the MPRB that in absence of the Metropolitan Council undertaking its obligation under federal law and in order to protect MPRB park, recreation areas, and historic properties under the ownership and trusteeship of the MPRB and in fulfillment of its legal obligations. as stewards of those resources it is now necessary for the MPRB to determine on its own and place into the record in this matter whether prudent and feasible alternatives exist for the proposed alignment of SWLRT and whether the project can have de minimis impact on those resources; and

Whereas, MPRB finds that important technical questions need further analysis before Federal Transportation Act Section 4(f) findings can be reasonably made and the MPRB can make prudent recommendations that fulfill its responsibilities;

RESOLVED, That the MPRB authorize the Superintendent to hire engineering services for a fee up to $500,000 to determine the prudence and feasibility of a tunnel under the Kenilworth Channel for the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project;

RESOLVED, That General and Special Counsels continue to conduct legal analysis and advise the MPRB as to what actions are necessary for the MPRB to fulfill its legal obligations to protect its park, recreational and historic properties and interests; and

RESOLVED, That the President of the Board and Secretary to the Board are authorized to take all necessary administrative actions to implement this resolution.