Kenilworth Corridor Gets Nod for Freight Traffic

Updated: 10/10/2013 7:27 AM By: Beth McDonough

It's the largest transit project in state history. There's a lot at stake for two cities: Minneapolis and St. Louis Park.

Wednesday was the first of two big decisions for the location of the Southwest Light Rail Freight Lines.

The project committee voted for the Kenilworth Corridor.

That decision upset Michael Wilson who lives near the corridor in Southwest Minneapolis, "freight rail trains when they go by, they shake the pictures on the walls, but we've learned to live with that."

The rowdy freight traffic was supposed to be temporary. That's the promise from railroad companies. But now that these tracks running through Kenilworth Corridor are considered the more permanent option for transporting cargo along the Southwest Light Rail line, he's beyond disappointed, "I'm feeling like we've gotten railroaded."

At a crucial meeting, every single metro leader preferred the two tunnel option. Except, the Minneapolis Mayor. Mayor R.T. Rybak is a lone voice, but a powerful one. He had sticker shock with the $1.5 billion freight route. 

It'll pass smack dab through the popular area of the city. And, he shared environmental concerns, "when we're done digging tunnels in the areas with water flowing from so many different directions. I do not believe we have put to bed the question of what could happen to the chain of lakes."

Most officials here call the tunnels less disruptive and less expensive to construct than the alternative.  That's because they'd be built 30 feet underground, preserving the path above for pedestrians and bikers. 

The backup plan would've shifted freight traffic through St. Louis Park instead. Residents there, are relieved according to Jeff Roy, "all the homes taken with the re-route that in the case of Kenilworth no homes will be taken, no schools in danger, no children in danger."

This was the first big test. The second is next week when the full Met Council votes. The city has hinted they could hold up and delay the entire project by going to court.