SWLRT planners recommend shallow tunnels, Mitchell station

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Governor Dayton met Monday morning with the mayors of Minneapolis and Saint Louis Park and state legislators to review plans for the delayed-Southwest Corridor Light Rail project. The meeting was at the Governor's office in the state Capitol.

The planning staff for the Metropolitan Council announced that they recommend to the Corridor Management Committee (CMC) the controversial "shallow tunnels" route for the light rail trains through the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis. That proposal has drawn criticism from some and praise from others in the Kenilworth area.

The staff also recommended reinstating the "Mitchell station" as the western terminus of the 16-mile line. Previously, the CMC had voted to shorten the line by eliminating the Mitchell station and save the additional cost.

Having the shallow tunnels and the Mitchell station in the project would boost the cost of the project from $1.55 billion to $1.7 billion. It would also delay the opening of the Southwest line from 2018 to 2019.

Federal funding is to pick up half of the cost of the project, with a consortium of counties (CTIB) contributing 30% of the cost. CTIB had announced that it will drop its funding if there is not a plan voted on by the Met Council by the end of June.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges attended the Governor's meeting Monday morning, but declined comment until her vote at the CMC on Wednesday. Representative Ron Erhardt (DFL-Edina), Chair of the House Transportation Policy Committee said he felt the Governor was "happy the parties were going along with 'common sense'."

CMC chair Susan Haigh is also Chair of the Metropolitan Council.

The CMC will make their recommendation to the Met Council on Wednesday, April 2nd after a public hearing at the Beth El Synagogue in Saint Louis Park. The Met Council vote on the SWLRT plan is now set for April 9th in Saint Paul.

Once a plan is approved, the Met Council will seek agreement from the five cities along the route: Minneapolis, Saint Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. It is believed that the agreement by the cities is not "required" by law, only that the Met Council must "seek" it.


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