SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The key vote on the planned route of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail (SWLRT) system has been delayed for up to 3 months. The decision came from Governor Mark Dayton after an early morning meeting at the state capitol.
The vote by the Metropolitan Council had been set for Wednesday at 3pm. Dayton decided to delay it for 60-90 days to resolve water quality issues and reconsider alternate freight rail routes.
The meeting included Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh. Rybak is a long-time supporter of Light Rail, but was the lone "no" vote on the route at the meeting of the Corridor Management Committee a week ago.
Metropolitan Council Member Jennifer Munt explained that the delay is to reassure Minneapolis residents and Mayor Rybak about maintaining water quality in Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, which could be affected by construction of two shallow tunnels along the Kenilworth Trail segment of the SWLRT.
"We need to give the City assurances that the water is going to be protected in our lakes," said Munt. We need to give assurances that tunnels are going to be actually built, that the trees will be replanted and the bicycles will be returned to the Kenilworth Corridor."
There had been some concerns by Minneapolis residents that only one of the two planned shallow tunnels in the plan would be built, leaving more of the light rail trains running above ground.
The Tunnels are to be constructed by "cut and cover", which will destroy the abundant vegetation on the trails and displace the bicycle paths for two years while the tunnels are built.
Rybak restated to Kare11 on Tuesday his opposition to rerouting freight rail traffic on berms through Saint Louis Park, which have been excluded from the CMC plan.
Munt expressed concern that a lengthy delay could endanger federal funding for the Southwest Corridor project, which is more than a billion dollars.
"Any time there's a delay," said Rybak, "it makes it more difficult for federal funding, but nowhere nearly as difficult as having a community split. So, it is so much better to take a little bit of time and answer some questions in hopes of getting everyone together."
Although the vote is delayed, the issue is still on the Metropolitan Council's Wednesday agenda. Haigh issued a statement Tuesday afternoon stating that she will move to delay (table) the vote until a later time.
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