Tag Archives: Southwest LRT

My latest Kenilworth Corridor photos

Anti freight co location sign along Kenilworth trail Mpls 9 8 2013
I found this sign posted along the Kenilworth Trail’s pedestrian path less than a block north of the 21st Street grade crossing. It had company to the south…
Anti freight rail banner on north side of Burnham Rd bridge Mpls 9 8 2013
…in the form of this banner…
Anti freight rail banner on south side of Burnham Rd bridge Mpls 9 8 2013
…and this banner. The banners were adorning the north and south sides of the Burnham Road bridge. This span crosses the Kenilworth Corridor south of 21st Street. This and the preceding two photos taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.
Looking up Kenilworth corridor towards 21st Street Mpls 9 8 2013
A view north along the Kenilworth Corridor. 21st Street is faintly visible in the distance. Railroad tracks once were as thick here as noodles in a soup with the Minneapolis & St. Louis had a yard here. By the early1980s, however, M. &. St. L. successor Chicago and North Western ceased to have any use for this yard and so pulled up all but the main track to the left. The Kenilworth Trail is now flanked by the track to the left and the experiment in prairie restoration to the right. Theoretically freight rail, light rail, and the Kenilworth Trail could be accommodated here. The loss of the prairie restoration experiment would probably generate some howls, however. Photo taken by Tony Held on 9 8 2013.
Pro LRT tunnel and anti freight rail signs at Burnham Rd and Park Pl Mpls 9 8 2013
Pro-LRT tunnel signs proliferate on Burnham Road southwest of the bridge over the Kenilworth Corridor. At the intersection of Park Place and Burnham, pro-LRT tunnel and anti-freight rail/light rail co-location signs engage in a Mexican standoff. Photo taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.
My engineer cap on anti freight rail sign along Kenilworth trail Mpls 9 8 2013
The imp in me could not resist placing my 1998-vintage engineer cap on the anti-freight rail/light rail co-location sign I came across less than a block north of 21st Street. This picture is my way of saying “Keep freight rail here!” Photo taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.
TCW US DOT plate on crossbuck on south side of 21s st crossing Mpls 9 8 2013
Interesting to note is this U.S. Department of Transportation plate bearing the initials “TCWR.” This is affixed to the crossbuck on the south side of the 21st Street grade crossing along the old Tootin’ Louie line by Cedar Lake. Photo taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.

More Kenilworth corridor, more contention

LRT protest on K corridor view one Mpls 8 11 2013
I had learned of stickers being left along the Kenilworth Corridor in Minneapolis, MN, protesting co-locating freight and light rail in the line. When I visited the Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing recently, protest signs met my eyes left and right like bad guys in an Expendables movie…and half protested the loss of the trail along with the half that slammed co-location.   These anti-co location leaflets were affixed to the back of a “road closed” sign posted on the north side of the grade crossing…
LRT protest on K corridor view six Mpls 8 11 2013
…these were stuck on a signal power box on the north side of the crossing…
LRT protest on K corridor view five  Mpls 8 11 2013
…along with one more and an anti-LRT one.
LRT protest on K corridor view three Mpls 8 11 2013
Another anti-LRT leaflet…
LRT protest on K corridor view four Mpls 8 11 2013
…decorated a trail-related device on the north side of the Cedar Lake Parkway crossing.
LRT protest on K corridor view seven Mpls 8 11 2013
This signal box on the south side of the crossing was festooned with both anti-co-location, and anti-LRT leaflets. Some ripped off, while others remained fresh.
LRT protest on K corridor view two Mpls 8 11 2013
This ripped-up anti-co-location sign was affixed to the same “road closed” sign pictured above. It could be found beneath the fresh ones. All photos taken by Tony Held on August 11, 2013.

Kenilworth Corridor: The LRT tunnel option

Southbound LRT leaving Ft Snelling station 12 4 2011
A southbound Route 55 LRT leaves the Fort Snelling station behind as it heads for the tunnel beneath Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Photo taken by Tony Held on December 4, 2011.

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.

Southbound LRT arriving at Lindbergh Term station 12 27 2012
A southbound Route 55 train on the Green –aka Hiawatha– Line arrives at Lindbergh Station deep beneath Lindbergh Terminal at Minneapolis/St. Paul International. Photo taken on December 27, 2012, by Tony Held.


“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!


Twin Cities & Western is “neutral” on reroute issue

Returning St Paul turn with ILSX GP 39 2 1389 and two TCW units crossing 21st street west Minneapolis April 3rd 2009
The Twin City and Western’s St. Paul Turn –bound for Hopkins after interchanging traffic with Twin City railroads– tip toes across 21st Street in Minneapolis as the train slowly rumbles along the jointed rails of the old Minneapolis & St. Louis main line on a gorgeous April 3, 2009. The train is right in the heart of a corridor contested between Minneapolis and the suburb of St. Louis Park as to whether or not freight rail can co-exist here with Light Rail Transit plus the Kenilworth Trail. Photo by Tony Held.


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.


The Kenilworth Corridor “bottleneck”

This image from the “LRT Done Right” website perfectly sums up what a bone of contention the Kenilworth Corridor along the former Chicago & North Western/Minneapolis & St. Louis line from Cedar Lake Junction in Minneapolis to Bass Lake Yard in St. Louis Park has become. The line –now operated by the Twin Cities & Western but owned by the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority– is slated to be replaced by a twin set of light rail tracks for the new Southwest LRT line. St. Louis Park is supposed to inherit the freight traffic. They do not want it moved; and residents in the Kenilworth corridor do not want to sacrifice the trail.  The result is a swell boondoggle. Image courtesy LRT Done Right.org.


Looking up the tracks at Cedar Lake Parkway 11 5 2011
No place causes more contention along this contested railway line than in the so-called “bottleneck” sector of the route. Here we are at Cedar Lake Parkway looking north on a mild day early in November of 2011. The space at right used to host at least two more sets of tracks, if not more. If you took out the trail and moved the freight track over a bit, you could co-locate both here. However, the trail –the Kenilworth Trail– is super-popular, and those who use it will not see it go without a struggle.


Cedar Lake Parkway trail grade crossing 11 5 2011
Another look at the “bottleneck” along the Kenilworth Corridor as it looks on the north side of the Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing. It is interesting to note here that the Kenilworth Corridor did not have a “bottleneck” in it for the longest time, as this aerial photo from 1972 demonstrates. The reason why it now exists at all will become obvious the further south we go along it.


Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing 11 5 2011
A view of the Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing looking east. South of this point is where “the bottleneck” begins in earnest.
ROW stuff at Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing 11 5 2011
We are on the west side of the corridor looking south here. Residential development at right encroaches on the current corridor from here to Lake Street.  The 1972 aerial photo reveals that this spot was once much wider thanks to rail yard-related trackage here; it can be seen in the right-center background of the photo down from the apartment building that occupies the same area of the picture.
Signal on south side of Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing 11 5 2011
The corridor on the south side of Cedar Lake Parkway as viewed from the eastern side. The narrowing of the corridor is especially notable here. This and preceding four photos taken by Tony Held on November 5, 2011.
TCW line by townhomes between Cedar and Lake view two 7 22 2012
We are down along the curve along the TC&W which starts south of Cedar Lake Parkway on a warm late July afternoon. The townhome development that was built on former rail yard land is visible at left. Kenilworth trail is at right. The “bottleneck” is at its most tightest here; but it is a pinch caused by lack of foresight when the yard land was sold after Minneapolis & St. Louis successor Chicago and North Western abandoned the Kenilworth and Cedar Lake yards in the early 1980s.
Anti co locate sign by townhomes along TCW Mpls 7 22 2013
The banner for the “LRT Done Right” website flies like a Yankee flag planted on Rebel earthworks during the Civil War at the townhome development built on former rail yard land post-abandonment.
TCW by townhomes between Cedar and Lake view one Mpls 7 22 2013
We are now looking south along the TC&W towards Lake Street. The townhome development marches practically up to the road on former rail yard land.  If these homes had not been built, there would be none of the issues and opposition hampering co-location today.   The question of whether it was the C&NW or the HCRRA that sold the freight yard land is one worthy of investigation; whoever sold it was extremely nearsighted, needless to say.
Underside of Lake St bridge view two Mpls 7 22 2013
At Lake Street along the TC&W’s current alignment on the ex-C&NW, exx-M&St.L. route from Cedar Lake to Bass Lake. Note how there is space for at least two tracks under the bridge deck at the right. A freight rail track could be threaded through there and the two LRT tracks could go through the center, though the bridge itself doubtless will need work to accommodate the overhead wires and other infrastructure.
Underside of Lake St bridge view one Mpls 7 22 2013
We are on the south side of Lake Street. The “bottleneck” has ended, and elbow room exists for co-location of the freight rail and LRT tracks…
Looking northeast along TCW by Lake St Mpls 7 22 2013
…as you can see further…
…and further south of Lake Street.
Looking southwest on TCW near Lake St Mpls 7 22 2013
We are now looking southwest from the vantage point of the photo above. Again, you could put the freight rail line further over and co-locate the LRT. The matter of whether to cross the lines at grade at Bass Lake or via a bridge is another matter of contention. I must concede that a bridge would be the best solution, since it would allow LRT operations to be unaffected by freight rail operations. The bridge could begin in this area for the gentlest grade possible for LRTs. Of course, should the LRT be put in a tunnel from Cedar Lakr to Bass Lake a bridge would become a moot point.  This and preceding seven photos taken on July 22, 2013, by Tony Held.