The Kenilworth Corridor “bottleneck”

Bye-Bye-Bike-Trail_Page_12
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…
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…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.