LETTER REGARDING THE MET COUNCIL AND SWLRT
The following letter by Stuart A. Chazin has been sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding the Met Council and SWLRT.
November 6th, 2016
I am writing to offer my experience and overview of the Metropolitan Council in relation to the proposed SWLRT. The irony for many of us is that the Met Council is an un-elected body whom answer only the governor. Consequently, his agenda and theirs, seems to come at the cost to the citizens of this state.
They have proven with this transit project an absolute breach of power, ignoring the DEIS, SDEIS and FEIS, for the greater goal of getting this line built in spite of the environmental damages it will cause.
There has been an overall lack of transparency with this project. The Met Council has consistently ignored public input, choosing a corridor where expensive and damaging tunnels are necessary, only to push through their agenda of getting this train no matter the cost.
The Facts About Southwest Light Rail
All of these facts (along with countless others) were indicated in the above mentioned reports, yet the Met Council is pushing the train forward regardless…
* For many reasons, the Kenilworth Corridor was NOT the City’s preferred route for the Southwest LRT. Then Mayor R.T. Rybak, Council Member Lisa Goodman, Council Member (now Mayor), Betsy Hodges argued that the LRT should NOT bypass dense neighborhoods of South Minneapolis, and that route (3C) had more potential for economic development.
* The 2010 Minneapolis City Council resolution of support agreed with great reluctance to proceed with alignment (3A) through Kenilworth BUT with the understanding and promise that freight would be rerouted out of Kenilworth Corridor.
* The DEIS from October 2012 (Section ES-23 to ES-24) evaluated a different plan, that did not include running the LRT in a shallow tunnel or co-locating freight trains next to LRT, that is, a plan that is different from the one currently being implemented by the Met Council.
* Importantly, that DEIS study from 2012 concluded that co-locating freight and LRT in the Kenilworth Corridor would be detrimental to the environment and would not adequately preserve or protect the quality of life. The DEIS recommended against locating freight and LRT in the same corridor.
* In 2016, the Met Council released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the Southwest Light Rail project. In that report two critical things were noteworthy:
1) It admits — for the first time and unequivocally — that the route it has chosen for Southwest LRT will, indeed, damage the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The executive summary clearly states that the SWLRT will have adverse effects on the Grand Rounds Historic District and Kenilworth Lagoon (part of the Chain of Lakes).
This admission is what the citizens of Minnesota along with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board have been claiming (thus fighting the route). In spite of this, the Met Council has continually denied these facts and continued to push forward with their agenda.
2) It claims, falsely, that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed route that would avoid damaging this precious historic and environmental resource. That is simply not true. (For example, running SWLRT through Uptown, a vibrant commercial and residential district, via the Midtown Greenway.)
Section 4(f) of US Department of Transportation Act of 1966 states that NO federal dollars can be spent on a transportation project that impacts parkland unless there is NO “feasible and prudent alternative.
The Met Council’s cursory dismissal of alternative routes in the FEIS confirms the legal basis for the Lakes and Parks Alliance (LPA) lawsuit: that the agency failed to give good-faith consideration to less environmentally damaging alternatives — as REQUIRED by the Federal Environmental Protection Act.
Recent derailments in Minnesota include:
2014 Dec 1: 30 train cars derailed in Ottertail County, its oil tankers were empty
2014 Dec 2: 2 trains collided near Mankato
2014 Sept 21: LRT derailed in downtown St. Paul its overhead electric wires were downed.
2014 July 13: North Star freight train derailed in Elk River, cause unknown.
2014 Feb 26: LRT was derailed by snow in Bloomington.
2013 March 27: 14 car train derailed near Parkers Prairie, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude oil.
Destruction of Environment
Destruction of 480 significant trees over 12 inches DBH and greater
Destruction of 1,960 trees 6 inch DBH and greater
Destruction of over 75% of vegetation of the 44 acres
Environmental impact still unresolved – Phase II investigation needed (Per Southwest LRT Project Office)
Ridership estimates continue to decline – The Met Council’s own projections show 8 of the 15 stations losing ridership (2030-2040)
The FEIS actually projects that carbon emissions will be higher in 2040 if the LRT project is built than if not. That’s simply incredible, NO reduction in carbon emissions from a mass transit project costing $1.85 Billion and counting.
The Met Council on numerous occasion stated SWLRT would not be built without legislative support which, they do not have. Instead, the Governor bypassed the Legislators to get the funding needed to fund the states obligation for the project.
And finally, despite the Met Council & Governor Dayton’s best efforts to thwart the LPA lawsuit, that suit is moving forward with a trial date scheduled Fall of 2017:
* DENIED the Met Council’s numerous attempts to get the case dismissed;
* DENIED the Met Council’s request to stop LPA from obtaining information to support their case;
* DENIED the Met Council’s request to rush the timeline.
The Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis v. Federal Transit Administration–Signed by Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau on 8/11/2016
* Pretrial Scheduling Order: Discovery due by12/31/2016
* Motions (non-disp) due May 15, 2017
* June 17, 2017 completed all dispositive motions; e.g., summary judgment motions
* September 17, 2017 date for trial.
This agency has been anything but transparent, honest and forthcoming with this project. Their agenda is to push this train through no matter what the cost to the people, the environment, and our great state.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Stuart A. Chazin