The City of Lakes Has Gone Off The Rails

The following article by Joe Soucheray and dated February 1, 2015 was published in the St Paul Pioneer Press.

The City of Lakes Has Gone Off The Rails

Having not previously weighed in, and realizing that it is probably too late — a fellow has been busy with our own train problems in St. Paul — the city of Minneapolis and the Metropolitan Council and all the rest of the new urban visionaries who like to wear tweed jackets and play Europe plan to put a train from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.Never mind that if you live in Eden Prairie, we should be hard-pressed to rationalize any obligation to get you to Minneapolis.

No, the real problem, and I am not sure this has been brought up, is: What are they going to do with the city’s logo, put a train on it and call Minneapolis the “City of Tracks?”

Why would anyone in their right mind want to put a train through the City of Lakes? What does Minneapolis think it is known for, the latest restaurant in the North Loop that will close in two weeks anyway, the garbage burner, the allure of loft living? One of the best names in all of professional sports is the Lakers. Unfortunately, that name went west to Los Angeles, where it makes no sense, but it sure made sense here.

Minneapolis is the City of Lakes, and now a train is planned to run between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, two the city’s seven most-substantial lakes. I suppose you could argue that a train down University Avenue disrupts only business and not the landscape. But I thought we were supposed to be Earth-conscious or whatever is the latest term for the theology of environmentalism. I thought we were supposed to be husbanding of parks and trails and bodies of water. That they are bodies of urban water is all the more remarkable.

The Minneapolis city logo is the silhouettes of two sailboats above the words “City of Lakes.” There is another logo featuring the city’s skyline, but even in that logo, the tall buildings are reflected in the water beneath them.

Most urgently at issue is whether a tunnel or a bridge will accommodate the train in the Kenilworth Channel that runs between Isles and Cedar. The Metropolitan Council — all unelected, remember — wants to build a bridge. The Minneapolis Park Board wants to spend $500,000 on a study to determine whether a tunnel makes more sense than a bridge, a tunnel being considerably more expensive.

Either way, it seems the lakes will lose. As a longtime student of White Bear Lake, which is disappearing, it might make sense to wonder what will happen if the big diggers of a tunnel violate the aquifer, and the next thing you know, the Isles and Cedar are swamps, offering not much of a view to the passengers on the victorious train.

This is progress? To put a train through one of the most lovely urban areas in all of America? Not only is it apparently progress, the governor, knowing that he is on the back nine of his political career and pining for a legacy, has cut the park board’s budget by $1.85 million a year because the board wants to commission that study.

The governor is saying, in essence, “I want a bridge. The Metropolitan Council wants a bridge. Quit stalling and get on board. So long as you park board people want to keep objecting, you are going to lose about $2 million a year. Got it?”

No one is quite sure how to handle a Mark Dayton who has suddenly become a tough guy.

By the way, I am not at all suggesting that the train be routed through a less-affluent neck of the woods. No, I am entirely consistent in my belief that we are not Europe, that trains are an unaffordable folly and that no train should be built at all. We lost over here, and we now have a train that cannot possibly pay for its own operating expenses even if the fares were policed. But at least it was established on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams and did not tear up lakes, parks and trails.

Minneapolis, in its civic insecurity, has always fidgeted around for an identity and now apparently is willing to surrender the great one it had all along.