Today, the Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released. While we applaud the release of this document and look forward to the many benefits of SWLRT we continue to be concerned with the way in which the proposed freight rail re-route is being presented and how the issue may be treated by the Met Council and Hennepin County.
During the years of planning for SWLRT, Hennepin County made a concerted effort to keep true study of the freight issue to a minimum, while promising Minneapolis residents that the freight trains would go away. Most recently this effort came to light after the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) required an analysis of the freight rail issue be added to the SWLRT DEIS. When Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman learned of the FTA’s requirement, she responded, “How do we explain without people thinking that co-location is now on the table after promises were made…” (Link to a video recording of the meeting, Section 4F, at 10:20: http://hennepinmn.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=10&clip_id=1459)
St. Louis Park has been clear on this issue for many years. City resolutions state that the City will oppose the re-routing of freight through St. Louis Park if an alternative route is viable. Studies have shown that co-locating freight rail and light rail on the current Kenilworth corridor in Minneapolis is not only viable, but also far less expensive and far safer.
By way of technical studies, St. Louis Park resolutions, and resident comments to the DEIS, we plan to show the FTA, and others that leaving the freight trains where they are in Minneapolis (co-location) is the best option.
It’s critical that anyone in St. Louis Park who believes their high school campus and their community should not be bifurcated by hundreds of dangerous, disruptive freight rail cars on a daily basis on a corridor never designed for such a use should comment on the DEIS before the deadline. As Jami LaPray, co-chair of Safety in the Park! explains “This freight re-route plan is the equivalent of re-routing highway traffic down a residential street.”
To help people comment, residents of St. Louis Park’s Birchwood, Bronx Park, Lenox and Sorensen neighborhoods along with Safety in the Park! are hosting two meetings during the 60-day comment period.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30 – 6:30pm or SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3 - 10:00am at the St. Louis Park Schools District office 6425 West 33rd St. The agenda of the meetings will include:
- A review of details from the DEIS document
- Why your comment matters
- How to comment effectively
- A review of the overall issue for new SLP residents
Please join us as we try to defend our community. Safety in the Park! is a non-partisan, not-for-profit neighborhood activist group that fully supports SWLRT in our community.
-Jami LaPray and Thom Miller, Safety in the Park