Metropolitan Council releases drafts of independent freight, water reports on Southwest LRT

Date: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Today, the Metropolitan Council released two draft reports prepared by independent consultants to examine important issues that affect the proposed Southwest light rail line serving the communities of Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. The draft reports include:

  • An independent study of the location of freight rail service; 

  • An independent analysis of potential impacts on water resources with light rail operating in shallow tunnels along the Kenilworth Corridor.

The water resources draft report was conducted by Burns & McDonnell of Kansas City. It suggests that the conclusions of previous water studies -- those conducted by the Southwest Project Office, its consultants and as well as the Minnehaha Watershed District -- are sound: shallow light-rail tunnels would have minimal impact on water resources. The report indicates areas where more information should be included as the project advances into the next phase of engineering and environmental assessment. 

The freight rail service study was conducted by TranSystems of Kansas City. It reviewed nine potential alternatives for freight rail location and eliminated seven of those based on established criteria such as cost, impacts and technical feasibility. The report finds that the Kenilworth shallow tunnel option, which allows freight rail to continue to operate in the corridor, is viable. It also finds that a second alternative, referred to as MNS North, is potentially viable. The MNS North alternative has similarities to the previously considered Brunswick Central alignment, but offers adjustments to alleviate many common community concerns. Relocation of freight rail to the MNS North alternative would allow light rail trains to run at grade through the Kenilworth Corridor. 

“The Council received these draft reports today. Our first priority was to release these reports to the public and policymakers as quickly as possible,” said Council Chair Susan Haigh. “While these reports provide additional technical information about both freight and water issues, their conclusions must undergo technical, community, fiscal and policy scrutiny. Ultimately, the tough policy decisions must still be made by project partners and the Council. It is my hope that this new information will help us define the project scope and budget.” 

Download the reports


The scope of each report was created in consultation with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, as well as with Hennepin County and project staff.

  • The independent water resources evaluation assesses potential impacts of LRT construction and operations on water levels and water quality within the Kenilworth Corridor.  It reviews and evaluates existing conditions as well as proposed construction methodology to minimize impacts on water resources. The scope of work is available here.

  • The independent analysis of freight rail alignments looked at previous studies and proposals. TranSystems reviewed many existing studies and designs, assessed the viability of those options and outlined a potential relocation alternative through St. Louis Park that will be subject to further study. The scope of work is available here

  • Project staff conducted a tree and vegetation inventory of the Kenilworth Corridor, which the Council also released today. The scope of work is available here


Public meetings


Consultants will present the draft reports at several public meetings:

  • 2/3  Joint SWLRT Business and Community Advisory Committee Meeting

  • 2/5  SWLRT Corridor Management Committee Meeting

  • 2/5  Metropolitan Council Meeting

  • 2/10  Minneapolis Town Hall Community Meeting (includes opportunities for public testimony)

  • 2/12  St. Louis Park Town Hall Community Meeting (includes opportunities for public testimony)

More information on meeting dates, times and locations can be found at

Comment through Feb. 21

The public comment period on the draft reports will run from Jan. 30, 2014 to Feb. 21. Final reports are expected in early March. Public comment will be accepted via mail and e-mail, as well as at all public meetings during the comment period and via

Draft reports and more information on the three studies are available on the Engineering page. 

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