Debate over Shallow Tunnel Could Delay SWLRT Plans

Updated: 01/30/2014 7:29 PM By: Jay Kolls

The head of the Minneapolis City Council tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she will not support a shallow tunnel option for the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project.

A coordinating committee received a staff recommendation Wednesday supporting the shallow tunnel option for a 1.5 mile stretch of the SWLRT project that winds through the pristine Kenilworth Bicycle Path and corridor between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake.

But City Council President Barb Johnson says, "It is not likely we will get behind that option because it could jeopardize the Chain of Lakes Regional Park, and that is a top priority of ours."

Johnson says, "If the city does not support the project and give its consent, the SWLRT cannot move forward unless the Metropolitan Commission petitions the federal government to continue the project despite the city's lack of consent."

And that could mean significant delays for the project that would run from Minneapolis through St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and end in Eden Prairie.

Johnson says the Kenilworth Corridor is a pristine area and that removing up to 1,000 trees for the shallow tunnel "is not appealing to us at city hall." Johnson also did not rule out a possible lawsuit from the city as an avenue to kill the shallow tunnel plan.

The Metropolitan Council was supposed to make a final vote next week on which option it will choose, but that vote will be put off for at least a week or two with these new developments.

Minneapolis officials and state lawmakers who represent Minneapolis at the State Capitol are urging the Met Council to back off the shallow tunnel option and take more time to come up with alternatives to the idea.

We asked the Metropolitan Council for comment, but they told us they will not comment on issues that "have the threat of pending litigation."