Southwest light rail advances with OK from Minnetonka
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), 2014-06-24
June 24 -- Minnetonka became the second city to give its blessing to the Southwest Corridor light-rail line Monday, but linked its consent to a lengthy list of landscaping, bridge design, trails and other amenities it wants included in the project.
"It's going to be a driver of economic growth ... [and] housing," City Council Member Brad Wiersum said of the light-rail line. " Minnetonka will be more economically viable."
Minnetonka and the Metropolitan Council , the agency planning Southwest, agree to "work cooperatively to address the items," the City Council said in unanimously approving the light-rail plans.
But the agency is making few assurances and repeatedly notes in a document that the city agrees that its approval does not depend on its requests being filled.
The $1.68 billion project is planned to run from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie , passing through Minnetonka , Hopkins and St. Louis Park . The Metropolitan Council is required under state law to ask the cities for their consent and Hopkins agreed last week. The cities have until July 14 to act.
Minnetonka isn't the only city to come up with a wish list of items it would like to see part of the project. Eden Prairie also has a list and is expected to vote July 14 . Minneapolis is negotiating behind closed doors with the Met Council over plans affecting that city and has not scheduled a vote
The cities also have the option of rejecting the plans and offering amended versions, but that strategy would delay and possibly jeopardize the project.
The Minnetonka City Council rejected a bid by a large apartment complex to reroute a portion of the light rail, but asked that an additional station be considered.
Minnetonka's approach couples approval with a four-page wish list that the Met Council agrees to consider. The city says "detailed landscape plans will be required" near a sound wall along tracks. The agency responds: "Landscape plans will be developed in advanced design."
The city said the agency "must work with city on proposed standards" for replacement bridges. The Met Council said it would do so.
Minnetonka also said the agency must work with the city on developing parking at one station if the light rail uses more than 350 spaces. "City staff acknowledged that this is not a municipal consent requirement," the Met Council replied.
"Quiet zones should be reviewed and must be implemented for all at-grade crossings in Minnetonka to prevent horn, bell and any other train emitted sounds," the city wrote.
"This is not applicable to municipal consent," the Met Council replied, adding that safety issues will be dealt with later in the project and "the city will be invited to participate."
The city and agency say the agreement, or memorandum of understanding, "memorialize their present intentions."
Pat Doyle -- 612-673-4504
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