The Metropolitan Council has petitioned the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to request that the STB confirm that it does not have jurisdiction over the Council's acquisition of rights-of-way and physical freight rail assets that are required for construction of the Southwest LRT Project. The STB is a federal agency that needs to review the proposed actions. These acquisitions would allow Southwest LRT tracks to be constructed alongside freight tracks within freight rail rights-of-way.
The Council's acquisitions would be subject to existing freight rail easements and Trackage Rights Agreements (TRAs) between freight railroad operators. A TRA is a contract that sets out the rights and obligations of a tenant railroad on tracks owned by another railroad.
The map below shows the locations of the rights-of-way that the Metropolitan Council requires for the Southwest LRT Project. The Southwest LRT route is shown in green. Click for a larger map.
The Canadian Pacific Railroad (CP) owns a 6.7-mile corridor known as the Bass Lake Spur in the cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, and Minnetonka that is required for the Southwest LRT Project. CP is willing to sell the right-of-way and physical assets of the Bass Lake Spur to the Metropolitan Council and grant a freight rail easement to the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA). HCRRA would replace CP as a party to the existing TRA.
HCRRA owns a 2.6-mile corridor known as the Kenilworth Corridor in the city of Minneapolis that is required for the Southwest LRT Project. HCRRA is willing to transfer the right-of-way and physical assets of the Kenilworth Corridor to the Council and remain a party to the existing TRA.
Future Freight Rail Operations and Property Ownership
As a result of the transactions described in the Council's petition to the STB, the Council would own the physical freight rail assets of the Kenilworth Corridor and Bass Lake Spur, and HCRRA would have the federal common carrier obligation to ensure the continued provision of freight rail service on both the Kenilworth Corridor and the Bass Lake Spur. The map below shows future right-of-way ownership and freight rail operations under the action proposed by the Metropolitan Council; the route of the Southwest LRT Project is shown in green. Click for a larger map.
Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W) has overhead trackage rights to use the Bass Lake Spur and Kenilworth Corridor. The transaction documents recognize and are subject to the rights of TC&W under the existing Bass Lake Spur and Kenilworth Corridor TRAs. TC&W would continue to operate in both the Bass Lake Spur and the Kenilworth Corridor under existing TRAs. The Council has designed – and would construct and operate – the Southwest LRT Project so that it does not unreasonably interfere with TC&W’s freight operations pursuant to those rights.
- On March 21, 2018, the Metropolitan Council authorized staff to file a petition with the STB which, if approved, would allow the Council's proposed right-of-way acquisitions.
- On April 4, 2018, the Metropolitan Council filed its petition with the STB. On April 18, 2018, the Council submitted a letter responding to letters submitted by other parties.
- On April 5, 2018, HCRRA filed its petition with the STB (procedurally called a Notice of Exemption), which includes a notification that HCRRA intends to assume common carrier obligation on the Bass Lake Spur.
- On April 24, 2018, TC&W filed comments with the STB on the Council's and HCRRA's petitions and asked the STB to dismiss them, stay both proceedings, or set a procedural schedule to allow for public comment, discovery, and evidentiary submissions.
- On May 2, 2018, the Metropolitan Council filed its reply to TC&W.
- On August 23, STB released its findings allowing the Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) to proceed with acquisition of the rights-of-way and physical freight rail assets of the Bass Lake Spur and Kenilworth Corridor, subject to freight rail easements held by HCRRA, and existing trackage rights agreements with Twin Cities & Western Railroad.