Friday, August 15, 2014

Dissent still dogs next Twin Cities LRT line

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Opponents continue to snipe at the proposed Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project, sought by the Metropolitan Council as the third LRT line to serve Minneapolis/St. Paul and surrounding municipalities.

Some residents along the route continue to protest the risk of hazardous material shipments and potential accidents from freight trains sharing the right-of-way of the current proposed route. The proximity of LRT and freight rail activity prompted some residents to urge the Federal Transit Administration to withhold federal funding pending additional study.

Last month Minneapolis and the Metropolitan Council jointly announced a "tentative agreement" to proceed with the planned development of the line, linking downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, Minn. The two parties had sparred for months over the project's right-of-way options, generated in part by proposals for LRT to share the right-of-way with existing freight rail operations, which Minneapolis opposed, and still expresses unhappiness over despite the pact.

The 15.8-mile Southwest LRT Project, also called the Green Line extension, will extend the Green Line (Central Corridor LRT which opened June 14, linking St. Paul, the state capital, with downtown Minneapolis) from downtown through growing southwestern suburban municipalities.

Glencoe, Minn.-based short line Twin Cities & Western Railroad, the Railway Age 2008 Short Line of the Year, operates over the existing route. Minneapolis has insisted that control of the right-of-way be held by a public entity, though it appears reluctant to be such an entity itself.

Though the line would serve four other cities in addition to Minneapolis, each of which had various problems or concerns, Minneapolis, the state's largest, has been most difficult to mollify.

Hennepin County will vote on the project on Aug. 29; it originally had planned a vote for Aug. 19.