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Shallow Tunnel Plan OK'd by LRT Staff But Metro Leaders Play for Time

The Metropolitan Council’s vote on the light-rail line will be delayed at least until Oct. 16.

A plan to build shallow tunnels for the Southwest light-rail line through the Kenilworth neighborhood received the endorsement of Metropolitan Council staff on Tuesday.

But mayors and county officials, worried about the $100 million cost of the tunnels and the strong opposition of Minneapolis residents, voted to delay a final decision during a Wednesday morning panel.

The Met Council will not make a decision about the light-rail project until at least Oct. 16.

The Met Council staff's recommendation was favorable to St. Louis Park, rejecting the possibility of rerouting freight traffic through St. Louis Park and endorsing a plan to co-locate freight and light-rail along the bike trail that runs through the Kenilworth neighborhood, between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake.  
 
“With the recommendation to put light rail in shallow tunnels, no homes or businesses will be acquired, and the Kenilworth Trail will stay within the corridor 
and be preserved for the long term," Met Council engineer Mark Fuhrmann said in a statement Tuesday. "The shallow tunnel option is the best option because it ensures conditions in the Kenilworth neighborhood will be the most similar to existing conditions today.”

The light-rail project is expected to cost $1.56 billion when tunnels and other costs associated with the staff recommendations are taken into account, up from an earlier $1.25 billion estimate that did not factor in freight rail adjustments.

But the city of Minneapolis stands in staunch opposition to the co-location option and could withhold municipal consent or file lawsuits should the Met Council approve a plan that keeps freight rail traffic in the Kenilworth corridor.

On Wednesday morning, the Corridor Management Committee voted to wait a week before making a decision about the staff's recommendation, according to the Star Tribune. St. Louis Park was the only city opposed to the delay.

Met Council Chair Susan Haigh told the paper after the meeting that she is confident the committee will eventually pass the staff's plan on to the Met Council.

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