MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been in the planning stages for years, but the controversial Southwest Light Rail line took a big step forward Wednesday. The Metropolitan Council voted 14-2 to approve the shallow tunnel plan that runs under the Kenilworth Trail.
At an expected cost of $1.7 billion, building the southwest corridor’s Green Line would extend light rail service nearly 16 miles. But the toughest stretch of the route is winning approval.
After countless hearings, public and written comment, the full Metropolitan Council finally weighed in.
In short, two tunnels will be built under the trail with light rail trains emerging for about 20 seconds between them on an at-grade LRT bridge over the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles.
Mary Paddock lives a block away.
“The Southwest LRT project is a mess. It’s behind schedule. It’s over budget. It’s controversial and pits cities at odds with each other,” Paddock said.
Others feared the reroute of existing freight lines and say the two can co-exist.
“St. Louis Park will not accept a freight relocation if a viable alternative exists,” Jami LaPray, of St. Louis Park, said.
When the microphones were silence it was time to vote. Now, a plan in the works for five years is now a step closer to rail commuters.
“The beginning of the municipal consent process signifies the conclusion of two and half years of close work between the Council, Hennepin County and the five cities along the line. The next 75 days will give local policymakers a chance to discuss and debate this regional investment and what it will mean to their community. The Council’s approval today not only moves the Southwest LRT Project forward, it ensures the further expansion of our regional transit system in other corridors,” Council Chair Sue Haigh said.
Also learned Wednesday, the trains would not begin service for a year later than first planned, 2019. Delaying that year has added another $130 million to the cost.