The following comments were presented by Commissioner Anita Tabb, who cast one of the three dissenting votes, during the discussion preceding the vote regarding the SWLRT Resolution.
COMMENTS BY COMMISSIONER TABB BEFORE THE SWLRT VOTE
That we have gotten to this point in the SWLRT project should be a Harvard case study in how not to run government. And yet it has come to the point where the Park Board is the only entity that has had the backbone to ask for a process that is fair and right.
First, let’s review how we got here: The county worked for years on this project to select a locally preferred alternative – and I do mean years! Commissioner Forney could probably give us details on how long ago this started but suffice it to say that this has been in the works for over 20 years. And after many years of review, the locally preferred alternative was selected. Now, let’s review what that locally preferred alternative was: it was to run the LRT through the Kenilworth Corridor and RELOCATE the freight to St Louis Park.
Things seemed to be moving along just fine UNTIL the railroad said they didn’t want to move! Now things begin to get really interesting. Most people might ask: Didn’t the county ensure that relocation of freight could be done before making it an integral part of the locally preferred alternative? But no, I guess our crack team of planners, designers and engineers forgot to ask that question. So now, in order to save the project, it is necessary to find another alternative! And don’t forget, the DEIS of 2012 actually recommended AGAINST collocation. But now, all of a sudden, it’s okay!
And things continue to get messier. Because rather than really research the alternatives, Met Council finds 8 alternatives in the space of 5 months and narrow it down to 2 options. What I find really disconcerting about that time frame is that it provided for NO COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. If the alternatives were that easy to come up with, then what the heck took 20 years the first time around???? Talk about something not being feasible and prudent! How about if we just ask for our taxpayer dollars back on the money spent on ineptitude on this project? We could probably build a whole lot of tunnels! But I digress. What I want to know is why, when a significantly different project is being proposed, that isn’t reason enough to have another review. Oh wait! It is reason enough and we are supposed to have a Supplemental DEIS come out. But – the Met Council wants us to forgo our 4F authority (which until recently, they didn’t acknowledge!) and go along to get along! Unbelievable!! Frankly, after this much time has passed, many things have changed and routes that weren’t attractive before now become feasible – take for instance, the thought of routing the train up 100 so that it goes through the booming West End development!
This project was originally slated to cost about $900M and was selected partially on the basis that the $1.2B it would take to go through Uptown was too expensive. Now because of the delays caused by the county, the price tag has reached $1.6B. The 80% increase in the price tag didn’t happen because of the Park Board.
Frankly, folks, if they had taken the 4F issues seriously at during the issue resolution process, this could have been baked into the project and we’d be moving forward. And it would have been at a reasonable cost. But the arrogance of some have gotten us to this point.
And while I am raving and making enemies, let me call out a few others who need to stand up and be accountable on this front. During the campaign in 2012, I remember standing at rallies with candidate Betsy Hodges, Senator Scott Dibble and Representative Frank Hornstein – all of who said that they opposed collocation and that a shallow tunnel constituted collocation. I am sure that many in the audience tonight remember that battle cry during the campaign process. Well, I’d like to know where they are now. I haven’t seen any help from them on this problem and I, for one, am incredibly disappointed and disgusted. And the governor – what kind of a temper tantrum was that???!!! So now the Park Board will have its funding cut because it takes its fiduciary responsibilities seriously??? Come on!
I am disgusted that we’ve been put in a position where we are supposed to be putting transportation over parks. It’s a false comparison and doesn’t have to happen that way. Good systems can happen. I am frustrated that, once again, Minnesota takes the “cheap” way out.
They’ve opted to do a project in a way that can be done better and last for generations. We try to compare ourselves to large US cities and we don’t want to be a flyover location. But we act as if we are not worth spending money on. When you calculate the cost of a tunnel over the life of project, it doesn’t turn out to be much.
We are looking at entering into a binding agreement with the Met Council BEFORE the environmental review has been complete. The environmental review is supposed to be examining alternatives including tunnels. So how can alternatives be examined in an honest manner when we are basically agreeing to a design before the environmental review – which give us some guidance? This isn’t the way that the process is supposed to go! This isn’t honest input!
If we don’t take a stand here, at the most visited park in the city, then where do we show what are real values are?
Why rush now when it has taken 20 years to get to this point?
Are we acting under duress? You betcha!