COMMUNITY VOICES | North Minneapolis Transit Forum: SWLRT

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A little after 4 pm on Wednesday April 9, the Met Council will consider a slightly revised recommendation for the scope and budget of the Southwest Light Rail Project.  When completed, the new light rail line will become the westerly length of what the Met Council has branded “The Green Line.” It will link St. Paul’s Union Station to Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie – and the hundreds of businesses and scores of communities along the line.

Over the past year, major regional media has obsessed on controversies prompted by recommendations by planning engineers and SWLRT project committees of citizens, businesses and municipal, county and state officials, to route light rail along an active freight line through the so called “Kenilworth Corridor.”   

Hundreds of recreational and commuter bicyclers travel through corridor between Kenwood and Cedar Lake neighborhoods every day.

Teams of planners, consultants and citizens have addressed the challenges of co-locating freight, light rail and bike trails though what folks have come to think of as a recreational area.  The prospect of moving the freight trains to St, Louis Park or Chaska has now been rejected as unfeasible several times.  

Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback and frosh Mayor Betsy Hodges (in a SWLRT Project committee) have consistently argued against Kenilworth co-location plans called for running LRT through tunnels hidden by the bike trail and vegetation.

With pinched sound bites and careless headlines, bolstered by hundreds of reader comments (caustic spitballs for the most part) in the Strib’s coverage, the Kenilworth controversy trumped all other aspects of the $1.6 billion project.  

Light rail, if one only browsed Minnpost, the StarTribune and TV news one of the following:

1. a city vs. suburb conflict, 

2. a Kenwood swell vs. an Eden Prairie commuter catfight, 

3. a view shed defendin’ kayakers, bike jockeys and homeowners vs. cold-hearted, planning engineers death match.

When reports surfaced that influential, deep-pocketed DFL donors in Kenwood were involved in convincing Governor Dayton that the project should be delayed for more study, news coverage pulsed more reported.

All along, little was heard about Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and, most especially – North Minneapolis, even though suburban leaders had had their own gubernatorial meetings.  The city-centric news was all about Kenilworth even though the southern apron of the north side would boast four stations and re-development opportunities. 

If the SWLRT naysayers south of Interstate 394 could delay the project once and then do it again, the project, given federal and local planning deadlines and intense competition from other parts of the country would die.  North Minneapolitans would be re-assigned their position in the back of the line for much needed public transit that could easily link them to the rest of the metro area.

That gloomy prospect, prompted Congressman Keith Ellison and a number of North Minneapolis community leaders to hold a transit forum on April 1st at Summit Academy.  I brought my video camera to bridge their news gap.   The 20-minute video of the forum is now posted on YouTube’s Democratic Visions channel.  Most of it will subsequently be included on an upcoming edition of the cable TV show of the same name.  Incidentally, Dem Vis is handcrafted by volunteers (mostly Democrats) from Eden Prairie, Edina, Minnetonka and Bloomington.

Met Council Members contact info can be found here.

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