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Yesterday, Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges announced a tentative agreement has been reached regarding a plan to build the Southwest light-rail project from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. The pact, which includes two memoranda of understanding (MOU), resulted from discussions mediated by retired federal judge Arthur Boylan.One MOU awaiting approval by both sides calls for the Metropolitan Council to: redesign the Minneapolis portion of the Southwest Light Rail Transit Corridor (Southwest LRT) to remove the light-rail tunnel north of the water channel connecting Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles; add the 21st Street Station back into the project; and add city-requested pedestrian-access, noise mitigation, landscape restoration and other improvements along the portion of the corridor in Minneapolis. If approved by both sides, the council’s revised budget for Southwest LRT would be reduced by $30 million, from $1.68 billion to $1.65 billion.
The parties also tentatively agreed to a second MOU that commits the council to work closely with the city and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority to ensure that the Kenilworth freight corridor remains in public ownership, which the parties believe would decrease the chances that freight trains will increase in frequency or carry more hazardous cargo through the corridor.