The following article by Cali Owings was published in the March 10, 2015 edition of Finance & Commerce.
Staff photo: Bill Klotz
Southwest Light Rail Case in Judge’s Hands
A lawsuit that could send the Southwest Light Rail Transit project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie back to the municipal consent process is now in a federal judge’s hands.
Attorneys for the Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis argued in U.S. District Court on Monday that the Metropolitan Council violated federal environmental laws and the state’s municipal consent process for light rail projects by seeking approvals for the 16-mile line before an additional environmental review was completed and made public.
U.S. District Judge John Tunheim said Monday that he would review all of the materials and issue a decision as a soon as possible.
The Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis, a group of residents concerned about environmental impacts in the Kenilworth Corridor between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, filed suit in September against the Met Council and the Federal Transit Administration. The alliance is asking the court to nullify the approvals granted for the $1.65 billion project in the municipal consent process and halt the project while a supplemental environmental impact statement is completed.
In an order Friday, Tunheim dismissed the alliance’s case against the FTA so the court is now only looking at whether the Met Council violated national environmental protection laws and the state municipal consent process.
“The question presented is whether under the unique facts of this case the Met Council has improperly limited the choices available during the remaining stages of environmental review,” Tunheim wrote in his opinion Friday.