Major vote set for Southwest Corridor light-rail line

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), 2014-04-09

April 09 -- The Twin Cities' biggest transit project approaches a major milestone this afternoon, with a pivotal decision on a $1.68 billion design that emerges from years of planning and over the opposition of Minneapolis .

The Metropolitan Council , the agency in charge of the project, is poised to vote on a plan to hide the light-rail line in twin tunnels through the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis despite complaints that it will disrupt and transform the neighborhood.

The plan was approved overwhelmingly last week by a panel of metro mayors and other leaders of communities along the proposed line. They rejected rerouting freight trains from the corridor to make room for the light-rail trains to run at ground level next to bike and pedestrian trails.

Met Council approval of the tunnels would begin a new chapter for the Southwest project, sending the plan to the five cities along the route for their consent or negotiations. Met Council planners have left open the possibility of forging ahead without a city's endorsement. But Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that a dispute lasting many months would likely doom the project.

The Minneapolis City Council last month came out against the tunnels and Mayor Betsy Hodges refused to consider the idea at last week's meeting of mayors and other community leaders.

The Southwest line would link Eden Prairie , Minnetonka , Hopkins and St. Louis Park with downtown Minneapolis , the University of Minnesota , the State Capitol and downtown St. Paul . Riders also could transfer to the Hiawatha light-rail line south to the airport and Mall of America and to a future Bottineau line in the northern suburbs.

The plan to be voted on by the Met Council today includes a sweetener for Eden Prairie : an additional station and extended line.


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