Latest SWLRT Plans Presented to Counties Transit Improvement Board

Updated: 03/19/2014 1:53 PM By: Leslie Dyste

The Met Council on Wednesday presented its latest Southwest Light Rail Transit plans to the Counties Transit Improvement Board, which contributes 30 percent of funding for the project.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin spoke with KSTP after the meeting. He said, "In (Wednesday's) meeting it was made very clear that in 2010 there were 10 projects, so nine others across the country that were in the same place as southwest. All but two have advanced procedurally. Southwest is one of the two that has not advanced... which means there's going to be more competition for federal money, and that's not a good thing."

Last week, the Met Council presented a shallow tunnel option where the line would remain underground through the entire Kenilworth Corridor instead of coming above ground over a channel. It’s similar to an option that lost steam months ago.

The Minneapolis Park and Rec Board had recently asked the Met Council to examine such a proposal. It would cost up to $85 million more than another shallow tunnel plan and could take a year longer to build.

Met Council Chair Sue Haigh said those reasons are exactly why that option had been passed over previously.

“It has always been technically possible, but a less desirable alternative,” Haigh wrote in a statement. “This option was presented today to be responsive to the Minneapolis Park Board resolution. The council is eager to find a solution and will continue conversations with Minneapolis to advance this important regional project.”

Mayor Hodges released a statement saying she was surprised because the Met Council originally said this was impossible.

“This is a brand new, and therefore, unstudied idea that is being put on the table three weeks before I’m supposed to vote,” she wrote. “We appreciate the Met Council’s responsiveness to the request from the Park Board. However, anything that may harm our lakes needs thorough analysis, which, according to the law, the Met Council must provide. We expect the community to have the opportunity to review the analysis thoroughly before any votes are taken.”

A June deadline has been set for a final decision on the route.