SAINT LOUIS PARK, Minn. - The controversial proposal for a deep bore tunnel under the Kenilworth bike corridor received a resounding "no" vote Wednesday from a Metropolitan Council Committee. The Corridor Management Committee makes recommendations to the full Met Council about issues involving the Southwest Corridor Light Rail project.
The Committee voted unanimously by voice vote to stop any further consideration of the deep bore tunnel option. The fear of many of the committee members was the high cost of the deep tunnel. It was estimated to add more than $300 million to the $1.2 billion dollar corridor project.
"It would have killed it (the entire Southwest Corridor) among the other counties across the region that are investing in this," said Peter McGloughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner. "I think it makes it more difficult for the project to be competitive for federal funds, which they are going to provide half of the money. There has got to be a cost discipline imposed here."
The action leaves the less expensive shallow tunnel and ground level LRT tracks still under consideration.
"The deep tunnel might be desired, but it is not practical and it is too expensive, so we are taking it off the table," said Peter Wagenius, representing Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
The deep tunnel is not officially out until the full Met Council decides, but Met Council Chair Susan Haigh admitted that it is unlikely that the deep tunnel would be accepted now. Haigh also said the Committee is awaiting a new analysis of the so-called "re-route" plan for freight train traffic through Saint Louis Park. The Committee is not expecting the new study to be completed before its planned vote on the freight route later in September.
"You can see that a lot of the questions (from Committee members) were about the speed of the trains, the height of the berm, what is really required?" said Haigh. "Could be mitigate impact by doing it a little bit differently? I think they (the analysts) will definitely be looking at those issues."
The re-route proposal involves a proposal by railroads for a berm, 14-22 feet in height, to carry freight trains through Saint Louis Park as part of the Southwest Corridor project. There is already a freight rail track in the city, but traffic would increase with a berm. Railroad representatives say the elevated track bed would be safer by straightening out curves and elevation changes on the current track.
"The difference is the people that are living there see a 40-car train maybe twice a day, going 10 miles an hour and that does not appear to be dangerous," said Cheryl Martin, Saint Louis Park resident. "These trains (under the reroute) can be a hundred cars going 25 miles an hour, high up on a berm, that looks like we could have a potential derailment at some point in time."
Minneapolis's Wagenius agreed with possibly opposing the berm proposal.
"The railroads' desire for a Rolls-Royce version of rerouting freight might be desired by them, but it is not necessarily what the region needs," said Wagenius.
"This is basically a wall that runs north/south through our entire community, basically bisects our community," said Jake Spano, representing Saint Louis Park. "On a number of different levels, that is not a viable option."
The Corridor Management Committee plans at least 3 more meetings before voting approval of any of the routes through Saint Louis Park. The next meeting is set for September 11.
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