SWLRT Vote Setback Could Cause Delay for the Project

Updated: 10/22/2013 4:32 PM KSTP.com By: Tom Hauser

A major setback for the Southwest Light Rail Line that could cause at least a three-month delay in the project. 

The Met Council will postpone a key vote on the light rail line that was scheduled for Wednesday.  The move comes after a meeting in Governor Dayton's office early Tuesday morning that included Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Met Council Chair Sue Haigh and key lawmakers. 

Rybak has been a vocal opponent of a "shallow tunnel" plan that would route the Southwest LRT through tunnels in between lakes and bike trails in the Kenilworth corridor. That option received preliminary approval from the Met Council over an alternative plan through St. Louis Park that would have moved existing freight rail traffic.
Governor Dayton says it's key to get the approval of all the cities along the route because any one of them can veto the project. "The citizens who've been engaged in this want to be assured their questions are going to be answered," he said after the meeting. "We want to make sure the questions that we're addressing are going to give people the definitive answers that they want."  
The "shallow tunnel" option would add $160 million to the project, now totaling more than $1.5 billion. However, routing the line through St. Louis Park and moving freight railroad traffic would also be expensive and require acquisition of several parcels of property. 

Met Council Chair Haigh says they need to take one more look at all the options. "Look at all the alternatives that have been studied," she said. "Bring in another expert to look at the work that's been done and see if, in fact, there's anything that we missed. Is there another viable resolution?"
The Met Council will put off its vote on the route plan for at least 60 to 90 days.