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Metropolitan Council unveils key reports for Southwest light-rail project


The Metropolitan Council will host four meetings in February for the public to learn more about two draft reports prepared by independent consultants that examine issues affecting the proposed Southwest light-rail line serving Minneapolis and nearby communities.

Released yesterday, the reports include an independent study of the location of a freight-rail line, as well as an independent analysis of potential impacts on water resources with light rail operating in shallow tunnels along the Kenilworth Corridor.

An analysis by Burns & McDonnell of Kansas City, Mo., suggested that the conclusions of previous water studies by the Southwest Project Office and the Minnehaha Watershed District are sound: shallow light-rail tunnels would have minimal impact on water resources, Metropolitan Council officials said in a press release.

The Burns & McDonnell analysis indicated areas where more information should be included as the project advances into the next phase of engineering and environmental assessment.

Conducted by TranSystems of Kansas City, the freight-rail study reviewed nine potential alternatives for a line relocation and eliminated seven of those based on established criteria, such as cost, impacts and technical feasibility. The report found that the Kenilworth shallow tunnel option, which would allow freight railroads to continue to operate in the corridor, is viable. It also determined that a second alternative, referred to as MNS North, is potentially viable, council officials said.

The MNS North alternative has similarities to the previously considered Brunswick Central alignment, but offers adjustments to alleviate many common community concerns. Relocation of freight rail to the MNS North alternative would allow light rail trains to operate at grade through the Kenilworth Corridor.

"While these reports provide additional technical information about both freight and water issues, their conclusions must undergo technical, community, fiscal and policy scrutiny," said Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh. "Ultimately, the tough policy decisions must still be made by project partners and the Council. It is my hope that this new information will help us define the project scope and budget."

The public meetings will be held Feb. 3, 5, 10 and 12.

The proposed Southwest light-rail transit project (Green Line Extension) would run from downtown Minneapolis through the southwestern suburban cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie, passing in close proximity to the city of Edina.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/31/2014