A tunnel along the Kenilworth Corridor portion of the Southwest Light Rail Transit line could solve the problem of co-locating Twin Cities and Western freight and Metro Transit light rail in the corridor as well as keep the Kenilworth Trail in place. A group named the Kenilworth Preservation Group advocates one as well, such as in this white paper.
The city of Minneapolis is dead set against it, however.
“I don’t want anybody who is not in these deep conversations to think it’s really practical to do a deep tunnel there. If we could, in this area, afford deep tunnels, there would be one in downtown Minneapolis.” Minneapolis Transportation and Public Works Committee chair Sandy Colvin Roy claims in this Southwest Journal article. Roy’s claim conveniently ignores the tunnel on the Green (formerly Hiawatha) Line which passes underneath Lindbergh Terminal at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.
“People really should not get their hearts set on the deep tunnel because we have no idea how much cost it would carry with it. We have no idea how extensive the impact to neighboring communities might be. A lot more work would need to be done before we’d be in a position to take that seriously.” Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak’s policy director Peter Wagenius claimed to the Southwest Journal. Wagenius’ remarks about having no idea what the impact to the “neighboring communities” a tunnel would have flies directly into the face of support for a tunnel demonstrated by the likes of the Kenilworth Preservation Group. “We are proposing to those in charge to consider TUNNELING as not only a viable option but as a solution to preserve this natural resource.” The KPG states on their website. It would behoove Mr. Wagenius to contact this group and get some facts. In fact, Wagenius claimed to the Star Tribune in this article that: “We’re willing to look at tunnel options to keep the project going,” though he added the that Mayor Rybak was tepid to the idea.
This same Star Tribune article reports that a deep tunnel would cost $420 million, while a shallow tunnel would cost $250 million.
It is my opinion that a deep tunnel would be the best option. It could start near Cedar Lake, and end after passing under the Twin Cities & Western in the vicinity of Bass Lake in St. Louis Park. The proposed 21st Street LRT station could be converted into a subway-style one like at Lindbergh Terminal, too.
I believe it would behoove Minneapolis and the Met Council to support a deep tunnel along the Southwest LRT. It would allow the TC&W to remain where it is, keep the Kenilworth Trail intact, and end this long, drawn-out debate raging over transit issues along the Kenilworth Corridor.
Wake up and support a tunnel for the Southwest LRT line, Met Council and the City of Minneapolis!
In January of 2013, Minnesota regional railroad Twin Cities & Western announced its opposition to being re-routed out of Minneapolis and into St. Louis Park for the Southwest LRT line. But the railroad had done an apparent about-face from this stance by July. “We could bring our trains through there safely,” TC&W president Mark Wegner told the Star Tribune in this article in regard to two new proposals that routed the TC&W through SLP. “We can’t crimp capacity for freight,” Wegner told the newspaper when he expressed concerns that shipments of large loads such as wind turbine blades could not navigate a corridor that shared LRT with it. (This also indicates Wegner would be against the 29th Street corridor being reopened as well, due to the limited clearance beneath the many bridges along it.)
This begs the question: Is the Twin Cities & Western opposed to the re-route, or not? Mark Wegner gave the answer in an August 3, 2013 Star Tribune guest editorial: “We have not sought to be relocated. We have emphasized the need to continue safe and economic freight service to our customers as we have for the past 22 years. Despite suggestions to the contrary, we have avoided taking sides with one community or another as they have sought allies for or against various options.”
And so the TC&W has declared itself “neutral” on the issue. However, Wegner does not indicate his willing to let the trains be moved about at the whim of local governments, which is a good sign.
The only way this issue will be resolved ultimately boils down to whether Minneapolis will force St. Louis Park to abandon their stance on the re-route, or vice versa, not what the TC&W wants. I do hope, however, their trains can stay where they are. It is a much better option than having to beef up the Canadian Pacific’s MN&S spur –the former Minneapolis, Northfield, and Southern main line– in an expensive rebuild that would carve a swathe through St. Louis Park which dislocated home and business owners.