SWLRT: Joint announcement by the City of Minneapolis and the Metropolitan Council

Date: Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Today, Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges announce a tentative agreement regarding the plan to build the Southwest Light Rail Project from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. The tentative agreement, which includes two memoranda of understanding, was reached as a result of discussions mediated by retired federal judge The Honorable Arthur J. Boylan.

At the City’s request, one memorandum of understanding awaiting approval by both sides calls for the Metropolitan Council to: redesign the Minneapolis portion of the Southwest Light Rail Corridor to remove the light rail tunnel north of the water channel connecting Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles; add back the 21st Street Station; and add City-requested pedestrian-access, noise mitigation, landscape restoration and other improvements along the portion of the corridor in Minneapolis. If approved by both sides, the Met Council’s revised budget for Southwest light rail will be reduced by $30 million, from $1.683 billion to $1.653 billion, as a result of these changes to the preliminary design of the project.

Separately, the parties tentatively agreed to a second memorandum of understanding that commits the Met Council to work closely with the City and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority to ensure that the Kenilworth freight corridor remains in public ownership, which the parties agree will decrease the chances that freight trains will increase in frequency or carry more dangerous cargo through the corridor.

The Metropolitan Council will take the following actions:

Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh will convene a meeting of the Southwest Corridor Management Committee July 9, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. to review and discuss the tentative agreement. The Metropolitan Council will meet on July 9, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. to consider approving the amended preliminary project scope and budget and set a joint public hearing with Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority for August 13, 2014 where residents will be invited to testify. At the same meeting, the Met Council will consider the two memoranda of understanding between the Metropolitan Council and the City regarding ownership of the Kenilworth freight corridor and the City-requested changes to the preliminary design plan. If approved, the Metropolitan Council will present a new municipal consent package to the City on Thursday, July 10, triggering a new timeline for a final municipal consent vote from the City. Hennepin County will vote on August 19, 2014 at a special board meeting to approve municipal consent.

The City of Minneapolis will take the following actions:

The Minneapolis City Council’s Transportation & Public Works Committee will review the basic outline of the tentative agreement at the end of its regular committee meeting today at 9:30 a.m. At tonight’s public briefing, residents will have an opportunity to learn more specific details about the tentative agreement and provide public comment. Minneapolis residents will have another opportunity for input at a public hearing on municipal consent on August 19, 2014. The City Council will vote on municipal consent at its regular meeting on August 29, 2014.

The tentative agreement will become final after it has been approved and signed by both the Met Council and City of Minneapolis.

“The Metropolitan Council and the City of Minneapolis agree that Southwest LRT is an essential component toward building a comprehensive transit system that will benefit the region as a whole as well as Minneapolis,” said Council chair Susan Haigh. “Southwest LRT will provide critical access to jobs for all people living and working along the corridor. Thank you to Judge Boylan for his skill and professionalism in helping us reach this tentative agreement.”

Haigh continued, “Today’s tentative agreement serves as a path forward to accomplish our mutual goals and to ensure this project gets built as a critical component of our 21st century transit system. Not only have we found a means for improving the project for Minneapolis’ residents and neighborhoods, but together the City and Met Council will be able to save taxpayers $30 million. This is a win-win outcome.”

“The City of Minneapolis has always strongly supported the vision for Southwest LRT,” said Mayor Hodges. “Our support now comes at a high cost — an unexpected and unwelcome cost — because freight was supposed to be removed. Governor Dayton is correct: the Kenilworth Corridor will not be the same. It could have been far worse, however, if not for the protections secured in this tentative agreement. With freight staying in the corridor, and given the constraints we face, this is the most responsible way to get the project built.

“I expect that and understand why residents along the Kenilworth corridor will be disappointed, but the greater good demands that we seek a path for Southwest LRT to move forward,” continued Mayor Hodges.

In addition to Mayor Hodges, Minneapolis City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden and Council Member Kevin Reich, Chair of the Transportation & Public Works Committee, were involved in the mediation on behalf of the City of Minneapolis.

“Southwest Light Rail is a critical part of our regional transit system that connects people to economic opportunity. The City of Minneapolis believes Southwest LRT will be a transit spine from which we can maximize access and connections for residents by bus, car, bicycle, walking and streetcar. For these reasons, Mayor Hodges, Council Member Reich, and I will recommend this proposal to our City Council colleagues. The City will also keep pushing for a comprehensive transportation finance bill in 2015 to make this vision a reality,” said Glidden.

“This project has a clear path forward,” concluded Haigh. “We also owe thanks to the other four cities along the line and Hennepin County for their continued support and patience during this process. They continue to be champions for the project and we are grateful for the municipal consent they’ve provided or will soon provide.”

Memoranda of understanding:

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