Key agreements related to freight trains that will share part of the $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail corridor were approved by the Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County this week.
The actions clear the way for the regional planning body to apply for a $929 million grant from the federal government to help build the 14.5-mile line between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.
But before doing that, the council needed to iron out ownership and operational issues related to freight operators that either own or use the railroad right of way and track along roughly six miles of the route.
The operators include Glencoe-based Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W), which hauls commodities through the Kenilworth corridor in Minneapolis, as well as on a spur owned by Canadian Pacific Railway between St. Louis Park and Minnetonka.
One agreement calls for Hennepin County to assume “common carrier” responsibilities along the route, which involves controlling which rail carriers use the track. Initially, TC&W was expected to take over common carrier responsibilities, but talks between the railroad and the council broke down, prompting the new arrangement.
“I’ll support this, but it’s awfully tough,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat on Tuesday. He said the new arrangement is a “major deviation” from the original plan.
Met Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff said Wednesday she was “disappointed that we weren’t able to reach an agreement with TC&W,” but she said the “agreements before us today are a major step forward.”