The following article by Dylan Thomas, which which is a summary of comments made by individuals attending a public hearing at Dunwoody Institute on June 18, 2015, was published in the July 2, 2015 edition of the Southwest Journal.
SWLRT ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
Neighbors of the Kenilworth Corridor aired concerns about tanker trains hauling hazardous material alongside the South- west Light Rail line both during and after construction at a June 18 public hearing.A panel of Metropolitan Council members heard from several residents who said they lived within the “blast zone,” the area within one-quarter mile of the freight rail tracks where homes and people are most at risk should a train derail and explode. The phrase pops up often in the national debate over moving crude oil by rail, and although the trains that run the Kenilworth don’t haul crude, they do regularly transport ethanol past homes, a school and parkland.
“Frankly, we’re pretty freaked out about it,” Shawn Smith, a Kenwood resident, said.
State Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL–61A) said the risks posed by those ethanol tankers were “glossed over” in the report. All trains hauling hazardous materials should be rerouted out of the Kenilworth Corridor during light rail construction “at a minimum,” Hornstein said, adding that there must be more planning for an emergency response.
Other Minneapolis residents raised concerns about noise, vibrations and contaminated soils during the third of three scheduled public hearings on a Southwest Light Rail Transit environmental report released
in May. An inch thick in paper form, the report was a supplement to the 1,000-page
SWLRT draft environmental impact statement released in fall 2012 and covers changes made to the project since then.
Those changes include digging a tunnel for light rail trains through the southern half of the Kenilworth Corridor so that existing freight rail tracks won’t have to be rerouted, a solution Minneapolis officials only reluctantly agreed to in 2014.
The tunnel will be dug within feet of the Calhoun-Isles Condominiums building, a former grain silo converted into a 10-story residential tower. At least three people who identified themselves as residents testified, and all expressed concerns about the potential for pile driving and other construction activities to cause serious damage to their building.
Kenwood resident Jeanette Colby said the report took a flawed approach to estimating the impact of noise and vibration on nearby residents once SWLRT is up-and-running. During peak period, trains will run every 10 minutes in both directions.
Colby said the report measured the increase in noise and vibration impacts against a rail corridor with an operating freight train. But that train was supposed to move, so the better comparison would be against no train at all, she said.
“What we’re doing now is we’re taking a temporary situation that was supposed to go away and making it permanent,” Colby said.
Richard Adair of Bryn Mawr was one of a few speakers whose comments focused on the environmental hazards of not building SWLRT. Extending the Green Line already running between St. Paul and Minneapolis to Eden Prairie is expected to take eliminate thousands of motor vehicle trips.
Other changes addressed in the supple- mental DEIS include the decision to site an operations and maintenance facility in Hopkins and a slight shift in the line’s route through Eden Prairie.