Full Met Council Vote on SWLRT Project Delayed

Updated: 10/15/2013 3:58 PM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

The $1.5 billion Southwest Light Rail project takes a big step forward -- but the controversy surrounding the proposed shallow tunnel through the Kenilworth Corridor in Minneapolis continues to steal the limelight.

On Monday night, a Metropolitan Council committee voted to forward the project to the full council for approval. But it added an amendment, directing project staff to work with the city of Minneapolis to resolve issues related to the Kenilworth Corridor. Many residents who live there are vehemently opposed to the project.

The council member who sponsored the amendment said it's all about easing the concerns of some Minneapolis residents.

"They deserve an assurance that the tunnels will actually be built, that it won't damage our lakes and our groundwater, and that bicycles and trees would be restored to the Kenilworth trail once construction is over," Met Council Member Jennifer Munt said.

The full Met Council was expected to take up the Southwest Light Rail project Wednesday and vote on the full scope and budget for the project, including the $160 million shallow tunnel, but that has now been delayed by state leaders by at least two weeks.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that there are a lot of questions still remaining about the path and the possible environmental impact of the project that should be answered before the Met Council moves forward.

Even if the full council gives its blessing, five city councils and the Hennepin County board must also vote on the project, likely by the end of this year. A decision does need to be made soon to assure federal money budgeted for the project doesn't disappear.