Kenwood Residents Voice SWLRT Concerns to Met Council

Updated: 10/22/2013 4:33 PM By: Stephen Tellier

There are very deep concerns about the shallow tunnel option.

That was the message from dozens of angry Minneapolis residents on Thursday night as they slammed what the Metropolitan Council has identified as the best possible route for the $1.5 billion Southwest Light Rail project.

"I think the shallow tunnel option is a big mistake," Judy Meath with LRT Done Right, a grassroots neighborhood group, said.

"I think it's really been not well thought through," said Kyla Wahlstrom, a neighbor opposed to the shallow tunnel.

"I'm really disappointed in this entire process," said Leila Brammer, another opposed neighbor.

There was no doubt the majority of Kenwood residents who attended a public open house on Thursday night are dead set against the shallow tunnel option for the Southwest Light Rail line.

"I think the city needs to take a long, hard look at whether this is really the way to go," Wahlstrom said.

That part of the project would cost $160 million, and would run right through the Kenilworth Corridor. Light rail would plunge beneath the ground, pop back up for a bridge, and drop down again -- the entire length of that stretch is a little over a mile.

On Wednesday, an advisory panel approved the plan. But the lone dissenting vote was an important one -- Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

"We understand that the Kenilworth Corridor is very, very important to the people who not just live next to the corridor but all the people who use it for biking, for walking, for recreating," said Sue Haigh, chair of the Metropolitan Council.

Haigh called the shallow tunnel cost-effective and minimally disruptive to the surrounding area.

"We're going to take great care, as we design this project and we construct this project, so we can preserve this lovely open and green space here," Haigh said.

But residents said they're concerned the full environmental impact hasn't been studied enough.

"We shouldn't go ahead with this plan until we know that our lakes are going to be safe," Meath said.

The full Met Council is expected to vote on the entire project on Wednesday. If it votes yes, Hennepin County and five cities, including Minneapolis, still must give their own go-ahead. That means city council votes. If the Minneapolis council votes no, that doesn't kill the project outright. Met Council officials said they would work with the city to try to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides.

But some Kenwood residents are still pushing for a freight rail re-route, or even a light rail re-route through Uptown, which would send the project back to the drawing board.