“Despicable” Congressman Martin Sabo called the Southwest LRT plan sold to the public as equity for the North Side. Industrial west Minneapolis is the closest the proposed route would come to the North Side with connector buses and heated bus shelters not included in LRT funding but offered as a possible side agreement.
“The current SWLRT includes no mention of equity,” Michael McDowell, transit organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, writes in Insight News (7/21/14).
The jobs overture has propelled dozens of black leaders to attend hearing after hearing to urge officials to make good the hard fought equity proposals that exist on paper like so many Indian treaties. It is sweet propaganda for minorities who are finally included in auxiliary documents and attractive to guilt-driven liberals forced to acknowledge heretofore discounted populations of people of color.
“Equity” is a campaign sponsored by developers who fund politicians in an election year championing constant growth and $850-million in federal matching grants. Whether it’s local or federal, it’s all people’s tax money. The $1.7-billion estimated SWLRT cost would be the largest public works program in Minnesota history. All for a fixed transit line serving predominantly Eden Prairie, Hopkins and St. Louis Park, according to Met Council research.
If this is an equity project for the North Side of Minneapolis why isn’t equity in the design? SWLRT is designed to “provide time-saving one-seat rides to people living in suburbs and exurbs,” to promote sprawl and “to avoid urban density and economically stressed communities.”
“Equity” is the reverse of the G.W. Bush era genesis of SWLRT planning. Furthermore the plan ignores the limits of nature, of clean water, air, and land—the Commons.
Deforestation would clear 44 acres of forest and parkland for SWLRT development in what was Big Woods country along the Mississippi River. Trees absorb water and carbon dioxide, enhance property values, provide wildlife habitat and quality of life for humans. Contractors typically denude and level the landscape for construction.
Thousands and thousands of trees would be destroyed to route SWLRT through the Kenilworth commuter bike trail used by more than a million riders a year. Our urban forest has already been decimated by one epidemic after another: Dutch elm disease, oak wilt and now emerald ash borer. Trees are a major global defense against climate change.
Researchers have traced the hair roots of trees, the deciduous tiny threads that absorb water, to half a mile from the trunk. The fact that trees are “renewable” in the long run avoids the reality and longevity of land damage. North Side Minneapolis has yet to be replanted after the 2011 tornado.
Dewatering is harder to understand since subsurface water, groundwater, is as invisible as people of color used to be. Consider the blood flowing through your body’s capillaries, veins and arteries like the root system of a tree. Tree roots penetrate buried sewer pipes constantly. Electric-powered LRT must be waterproof. Roadways soften and dissolve when saturated.
Water is drained out of transportation lanes since the weight and pounding of transit breaks down the surface and support allowing cracks where leaks begin and grow and freeze and thaw. Groundwater is guided by gravity or pumped into pipes that funnel water away and dump it and its contaminates into sewers, holding ponds, ditches, streams and eventually the Mississippi in our area.
For example, Interstate-394 west out of Minneapolis is dewatered at 2.5-million gallons per day. Coldwater Springs, the last natural spring in Hennepin County, loses 27,500 gallons per day since Hiawatha LRT and Highway 55 reroute construction. Drying out the soil renders it less able to absorb storm water, problematic in our time of climate change with alternating mega-storms and drought.
SWLRT would cut a “shallow” tunnel through the Chain of Lakes. Just as blood floods to a cut imagine groundwater flowing into a gash half a mile long and 35-feet wide. The depth of the subsurface tunnel is 30-feet. In addition two parallel steel sheet pilings on the outside of the tunnel, sunk 55-feet below surface would anchor the huge transit box and keep it from popping out of the ground due to water pressure. The pilings would also curtail lateral groundwater circulation for the half mile length of the tunnel and between the 35-foot wide steel walls.
A total daily dewatering of 24,000 gallons is expected with the shallow tunnel. Plans call for 15,000 gallons per day of tunnel dewatering into the sanitary sewer system, permanent internal tunnel dewatering. Groundwater circulating outside around the tunnel would remove another 9,000 gallons of water per day to be diverted back into the groundwater table which, water studies warn, might cause local flooding.
Why flooding? Because the ground is already saturated below the water table and more water has only one available direction—up. The tunnel is designed to withstand 100-year storm events. Where is the study of how that tunnel would have survived last spring’s relentless deluge?
The Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company water study for the Met Council aggressively denies any “dewatering.” Apparently clearing the submerged tunnel of water is not considered dewatering. Water outside the tunnel would be collected and re-piped elsewhere into the ground through sand and rock to filter pollutants.
Regardless of what it is called, an estimated 24,000 gallons every day would be removed from the nearly half mile tunnel area between Cedar, Lake of the Isles and Calhoun. Loss of flow means loss of water quality. Cedar and Calhoun are home to six of Minneapolis’ dozen swimming beaches. The top (highest above sea level) lakes, Brownie, Cedar, Isles and Calhoun, operate as one because they have been artificially connected; this impedes nature’s filtering process and probably adds suspended particles to lake water.
The famous Minneapolis Chain of Lakes include, from north to south, Brownie, Cedar, Isles, Calhoun and Harriet. Only Cedar, Calhoun and Harriet are clean enough (except for three days after a storm event) for swimming. Cedar and Calhoun each have three beaches although there is talk of closing Cedar’s popular Hidden Beach. Harriet has two beaches. Independent of the Chain, Nokomis has two beaches, Hiawatha and Wirth each have one beach.
The shallow tunnel was a late-comer to the SWLRT plan that was predicated on removal of heavy rail out of the city. Somehow politicians missed this primary problem the first dozen or so years of planning.
There is not enough land space for co-location of the three transit modes, heavy rail, light rail and bike trail in the proposed corridor. And there is no Draft Environmental Impact Statement that includes the most recent of the constantly morphing routes required by state and federal law before municipal consent is granted. However the federal deadline for money is looming.
The DFL in this one party town is threatening Minneapolis officials with loss of funding for other projects and possibly election support if municipal consent is not approved. This is hard ball politics. Just get the money is the very loud, short term argument.
City of Lakes, First in Parks in the Nation
Minneapolis proudly promotes itself as the city of lakes and parks. Why then would officials cut into Minnehaha Park and Coldwater Springs for the Hiawatha LRT, shrink the Kenilworth commuter bike trail and threaten the Chain of Lakes for SWLRT, and plan the proposed Bottineau LRT to intercept Theodore Wirth Park?
The founders of our famous parks, Horace Cleveland and Theodore Wirth, would battle against this plan. After 135 years of building our park system we are seeing it systemically reduced, denigrated and “developed.” What a shame.
We are in danger of losing our identity.
Minneapolis City Council votes on “municipal consent” of the Southwest LRT plan
Friday, August 29, 2014, 9:30 am
City Hall room 317
To find and contact your city council member: