AREMA guidelines state that freight have a 25 ft. separation of rail to other structures measured center rail to center rail but in the most narrowest part of Kenilworth Corridor Freight trains carrying highly flammable cargo will be within a mere 11 feet from passengers on the LRT in the shallow tunnel.

The freight trains are currently 25 ft. from the Cedar Lake Shores townhomes and during construction will be within 17 ft.

The Facts About Southwest Light Rail
Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis, Inc.
February 22, 2015

For many reasons, the Kenilworth Corridor was NOT the City’s preferred route for the Southwest LRT. Then Mayor R.T. Rybak, Council Member Lisa Goodman, then Council Member Ralph Remington and then Council Member (now Mayor), Betsy Hodges argued that the LRT should NOT bypass dense neighborhoods of South Minneapolis, and that this route (3C) had more potential for economic development.

Seeking compromise, the City agreed with great reluctance to proceed with the Hennepin County’s preferred alignment (3A) through Kenilworth BUT with the understanding and promise that freight would be rerouted out of Kenilworth Corridor.

The 2010 Minneapolis City Council resolution of support for the locally preferred alternative (LPA) made it clear that its support for the Kenilworth LRT route was contingent upon implementing freight relocation as planned and promised.

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In the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of October 2012 Section ES-23 to ES-24 evaluated a different plan, that did not include running the LRT in a shallow tunnel orco-locating freight trains next to LRT, that is, a plan that is different from the one currently being implemented by the Met Council.

Importantly, that study concluded that co-locating freight and LRT in the Kenilworth Corridor would be detrimental to the environment and would NOT adequately preserve or protect the quality of life. The DEIS recommended against locating freight and LRT in the corridor.

Section of the DEIS states that potential long term effects may occur at the Kenilworth Channel.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (“MPRB”)

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (“MPRB”) has been voicing its concerns about where the proposed LRT would cross the historic and environmentally sensitive Kenilworth Channel. The channel is part of the Grand Rounds Historic District and is, therefore, eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

In its comments on the 2012 DEIS, the MPRB expressed concerns about preserving the (i) historic character of the 1913 Kenilworth Channel; (ii) the access the Channel provides for wildlife; (iii) the Channel’s year-round recreational use; and (iv) the historic water connection the Channel provides between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles which is “a defining characteristic of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park.”

The DEIS acknowledges that the impact of replacing the existing bridge over the Channel “could be substantial because of sensitive receptors traveling in the lagoon.”

The DEIS also acknowledges that “the existing bridge and the Kenilworth Lagoon and Channel are historic, located in the Historic Grand Rounds District” and the potential replacement or modification of the existing pedestrian bridge would have substantial effect on this historic landscape.

Since 2012, the MPRB has consistently and regularly communicated to the Met Council and the public both in its support of light rail and its concerns about how the SWLRT could impact parkland.

The MPRB has NOT deterred the project or the project timeline as (Governor Dayton has claimed).

The MPRB has worked, and continues to work, diligently to stay within the project timelines as demonstrated in the following resolutions:

12/05/12 – Resolution 2012-321

08/21/13 – Resolution 2013-282

02/05/14 – Resolution 2014-114

05/21/14 – Resolution 2014-209

09/17/14 – Resolution 2014-293

11/19/14 – Resolution 2014-347

01/07/15 – Resolution 2015-106

01/07/15 – Resolution 2015-107

The Met Council (an un-elected body) answers only to the governor.

LPA’s lawsuit on Southwest LRT is moving forward and we need your help!

Please make every effort to show your support by attending these critical hearings:

Wednesday, Feb 25, 10:00 a.m.
United States District Court
Federal Court Building, Chamber 13E*
300 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415

· Hear Met Council’s and FTA’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit.

Monday, March 9, 3:00 p.m.
United States District Court
Federal Court Building, Chamber 13E*
300 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415

· Hear LPA’s motion for a summary judgment

*summary judgment is a judgment entered by the court of a decision in our favor, without a full trial, which we request since all the facts are matters of public record, and do not need to be “discovered”

Your presence is needed to show that the public demands:

1) That our lakes and parks receive the legal protection they require and are entitled to in order to remain the pride of Minneapolis, and

2) That the Met Council obey state and federal laws.

The MPRB commissioners elected by Minneapolis citizens have tremendous responsibility to protect the parkland and are specifically and uniquely charged by state law to protect the city’s parkland.

Section 4(f) of US Department of Transportation Act of 1966 states that NO federal dollars can be spent on a transportation project that impacts parkland unless there is NO“feasible and prudent alternative.

The MPRB need data to determine what SWLRT option (for example, bridge or tunnel crossing the Kenilworth Channel) is the most feasible and prudent.

The Park Board repeatedly requested such information from the Met Council but the Met Council has NOT provided it. Consequently, in order to come to a fact-based conclusion about the feasibility and prudence of the SWLRT plan, the MPRB was forced to hire its own consultants.

Environmental Impact Study (EIS)

An EIS would identify the dangers of co-locating light rail in the same dangerously narrow corridor as freight trains carrying highly flammable cargo.

An EIS would evaluate the risk of running ethanol-loaded freight trans a mere 11 feet from passengers on the LRT and its electrical wires overhead.

An EIS would examine the disastrous effects of an ethanol spill into Kenilworth Channel and connecting lakes.

An EIS would identify the project’s impact on ground water, a risk inherent in constructing the shallow tunnel. The extent and effect of “de-watering” the tunnel and the impact on water quality in our precious Chain of Lakes is, without an EIS, unknown.

An EIS would determine how, or even if, freight rail could continue to run as the “shallow tunnel” was built with heavy construction equipment operating only 11 feet away. It would assess the safety and costs of such a plan.

An EIS would evaluate the impact of the proposed plan on the hundreds of thousandsof walkers, joggers, bikers, canoers, kayakers and skiers who use the corridor each year.

The Met Council violated federal and state laws, as well as state administrative rules1 in requiring municipal consent to SWLRT before ALL questions regarding EIS were answered.

Calhoun Isles Condominium

The shallow tunnel will be constructed within 2 feet of the exterior walls of the143-unit multi- story Calhoun Isles Condominium, a restored grain silo made of solid concrete.

The shallow tunnel’s sheet piling would be driven only 18 inches from the footing of the multi- story parking structure.

The Met Council has admitted not having done an analysis of the significance of thisbelow-grade construction to the structural integrity of the condominium’s buildings

The Met Council has indicated that additional potholing activities will be necessary later in the summer in order to complete the evaluation of the impact of the construction on these buildings.

This means the residents of Calhoun Isles Condominium will not know if they are able to continue to live in their homes once tunnel construction commences.

The Met Council does not know if the proximity of the LRT sheet piling and rails to the exterior walls and footings of the condominium will damage those structures to the point where the buildings can no longer be occupied safely.

Light Rail Trains would run through the shallow tunnel on rails located approximately 12 feet from the footings of this structure and some 15.5 feet from their exterior walls.

The level of vibration and noise from the LRT are currently unknown as is the effect they may have on livability in the condominiums. Responsibility for these problems is also an unknown.

Calhoun Isles Condominium has NOT received any assurance from the Met Council that the operation of approximately 220 trains per day in the shallow tunnel only 12 feet from the foundation will NOT adversely effect the integrity of the condominium structure.

Freight Trains

MNDOT needed to move freight rail out of the Midtown Corridor because the reconstruction of Highway 55 was going to sever the at-grade crossing of the highway.

The government agencies involved had decided the solution was to relocate freight rail to the existing Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway (“MN&S”) rail corridor in St. Louis Park. But before the project began, project engineers learned that the land under the planned connection to the freight reroute – the Golden Auto site in St. Louis Park – was contaminated and unfit for construction.

HCRRA then allowed Twin Cities & Western (“TC&W”) railroad to temporarily move its trains to the publicly owned Kenilworth Corridor right-of-way in order to assist the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) to meet deadlines to save federal funding for the reconstruction of Highway 55 in south Minneapolis.

Kenilworth Corridor was only to be in use for a maximum of six years, thus allowing time for environmental cleanup at the Golden Auto site. HCRRA entered into an agreement with TC&W for relocation to the MN&S corridor after the cleanup.

Hennepin County’s promise to re-route freight before the corridor would be used for passenger transit service is summarized in its 2009 Freight Rail Study.

The State legislation providing substantial funding for soil remediation for the Golden Auto site in St. Louis Park required that MNDOT not disburse those funds until an agreement had been reached regarding the routing of freight. MNDOT failed to follow the law and gave the soil remediation funds to St Louis Park without a binding agreement from St. Louis Park regarding the rail routing. Laws of Minnesota, 1997, Ch. 231, Art. 16, Sec.23.

As proposed the SWLRT tracks, which are powered by electric catenary line, will be as close as 12 ft. from the TC&W tracks in the Kenilworth corridor; ethanol is prone to ignite with an electrostatic charge.

AREMA guidelines state that freight have a 25 ft. separation of rail to other structures measured center rail to center rail but in the most narrowest part of Kenilworth Corridor Freight trains carrying highly flammable cargo will be within a mere 11 feet from passengers on the LRT in the shallow tunnel.

The freight trains are currently 25 ft. from the Cedar Lake Shores townhomes and during construction will be within 17 ft.

Governor Dayton

On April 8th, 2014 Governor Dayton stated a plan to run the Southwest light rail through tunnels in the Kenilworth corridor of Minneapolis is flawed but the “only option” to advance. There does not appear to be any other viable alternative to what the council will be considering. It’s the only option for the line to go forward, and I support the line going forward. There’s no good solution to the choke point in the Kenilworth corridor.

Governor Dayton also stated that Met Council staff, the planners and the like, should have foreseen these issues.

During his re-election campaign, Governor Dayton accused his opponent Jeff Johnson, a suburban county commissioner, of irresponsibly pandering to northeastern Minnesota, a traditionally Democratic voting area by promising approval of the PolyMet mining project before all environmental reviews were completed. Governor Dayton said PolyMet’s examination “has taken too long no doubt” but that the study is important given the new type of mining. So if Minnesota’s governor thinks environmental information is necessary in the northern part of the state to understand the impact of a project up north, why does he oppose it here, when the signature asset of the City of Minneapolis, the Chain of Lakes is in jeopardy?

On January 27, 2015 Governor Dayton recommended reducing $3.77 million in funding from MPRB yearly budget because they were following the law. The Governor wants to punish and bully the MPRB for doing what the law requires of them and for doing what they were elected to do; protect our precious lakes and parks.

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Interesting Facts:

Recent derailments in Minnesota include:

2014 Dec 1: 30 train cars derailed in Ottertail County, its oil tankers were empty 2014 Dec 2: 2 trains collided near Mankato

2014 Sept 21: LRT derailed in downtown St. Paul its overhead electric wires were downed. 2014 July 13: North Star freight train derailed in Elk River, cause unknown.

2014 Feb 26: LRT was derailed by snow in Bloomington.

2013 March 27: 14 car train derailed near Parkers Prairie, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude oil

Destruction of 480 significant trees over 12 inches DBH and greater

Per Southwest LRT Project Office (SPO)

Destruction of 1,960 trees 6 inch DBH and greater

Per Southwest LRT Project Office (SPO)

Destruction of over 75% of vegetation of the 44 acres

Per Southwest LRT Project Office (SPO)

Environmental impact still unresolved – Phase II investigation needed

Per Southwest LRT Project Office (SPO)

The Met Council’s most recent projection of average weekday ridership in 2030 at Minneapolis’s three stations (Penn, Van White, Royalston) is 22% LOWER then originally forecasted.

Source: MPR & Metropolitan Council




% Difference






Van White















Average freight trains & light rail running on a daily, weekly & yearly basis through one of the most pristine areas on the chain of lakes.








Light Rail








Comparisons of neighborhoods within a half-mile

Midtown/Nicollet – (3C)

Kenilworth Corridor – (3A)

Minneapolis’s Preferred Route

Current Alignment

Density (Person/sq. mile)

Percent taking transit to work

Percent of Families in Poverty

1 National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (“MEPA”), and the Minnesota Light Rail Transit Statutes, § 473.3993 et seq. See also Minnesota Administrative Rules, 4410.3100, Prohibition on Final Governmental Decisions

Stuart Chazin

Lakes & Parks Alliance of Minneapolis, Inc.
C/O The Chazin Group, Inc.
Lake Pointe Corporate Centre
3100 West Lake Street, Suite 230
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416-5392
By Published On: February 22nd, 2015Comments Off on Lakes & Park Alliance: The Facts About Southwest Light Rail (Minneapolis)

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