The Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) line would run from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie with 15 stations, including one in West Calhoun. The engineering phase is complete and construction bids have been received that raise the total project budget to $2.003 billion. Because of the increase in costs from the second round of bidding Hennepin County would need to contribute an additional $204 million. On May 31st, the County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to approve the upwardly revised budget, and 6-1 to continue paying their share of the project through August 31st. Later this summer the Board will vote again on whether to continue funding the project while awaiting a federal funding commitment for 50% of the original project cost. Meanwhile the Lakes & Parks Alliance is appealing a judge’s ruling against them in a lawsuit that seeks to send the project back to the drawing board due to an inadequate environmental impact statement.
The latest target starting date for passenger service is 2023.
For more information see https://metrocouncil.org/Transportation/Projects/Current-Projects/Southwest-LRT.aspx
Below are some comments from local stakeholder groups:
Comments from Diverse Multi-Stakeholder Group Surrounding West Lake Station of Southwest Light-Rail Transit
- The Sample Transit-Oriented District design just shows a rearrangement of the same intensity of land use/development. In order to justify rebuilding, there would need to be increased density.
- Moving Calhoun Village, Whole Foods Market, and MGM Liquors would be very costly because of contaminated soil and the need for pilings; and situating parking immediately adjacent to the station is contrary to this station as a prime candidate for transit-oriented development, as stated in the text of the document.
- Plans still need to show a strong connection from the station to Lake Calhoun for bikes and pedestrians, including direct sight lines from the station to the lake if possible. This should be done in a way that reflects the concepts of “Context Sensitive Solutions,” and “Complete Streets,” as advanced by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the “Livability Principles” at the core of the “Partnership for Sustainable Communities” among the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and Environmental Protection Agency.
- There still is no clearly demonstrated pedestrian access from the north.
- There needs to be a seamless connection between the SW LRT and the proposed Midtown Greenway streetcar line.
- It is unworkable for freight rail and light rail to share the Kenilworth corridor.
- The designation “West Lake Station” should be considered a temporary placeholder. It does not resonate with this group of neighboring stakeholders, and may be ambiguous or unhelpful for transit riders unfamiliar with the area. The perspectives of both types of users need to be balanced. The ideal name will be clear, specific, brief and memorable. Such an important issue should not be handled in an ad hoc manner, and should be subjected to appropriate, rigorous analysis before a final decision is made.
Kenwood-Isles, Cedar-Isles-Dean, Lowry Hill and West Calhoun neighborhood Boards of Directors have agreed on these Joint Goals for SWLRT Design and Mitigation
- Maintenance of current healthy, stable, livable communities.
- Safety and enjoyment of parkland and trails for recreational users and bicycle commuters.
- Protection of vital urban green space and wildlife habitat.
- Maintenance or creation of traffic patterns that would ease congestion and enhance neighborhood livability.
In sum, our Minneapolis neighborhood associations have confidence that SWLRT can have a positive impact in our communities if it is well designed and respects the above stated goals. Designers and engineers will face diverse challenges at the most southerly section of the SWLRT line in Minneapolis. They will need to enhance West Calhoun’s commercial growth and recreational center with a station area that builds strong, visible and safe connections to the commercial community as well as the Chain of Lakes and the historic MPRB Grand Rounds.
Car traffic must be mitigated and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure should be enhanced. In the CIDNA area, designers must ensure livability in areas of denser housing and maintain attractive recreational opportunities. In the CIDNA, Kenwood and Lowry Hill areas, designers must seek all opportunities to preserve and enhance uniquely tranquil urban landscape, bicycle commuting, and recreational areas, including around the proposed 21st Street station. Every possible effort must be made to minimize the impact of additional traffic on Kenwood streets that are potential routes to the station. With advocacy, high standards, creativity, and use of available tools and partnerships, the SWLRT can be a national example of excellence in transit design.
Specifically, we believe the following general mitigation approaches must be advocated:
- Tunneling or trenching the tracks must be included where necessary to reduce noise, traffic, and visual impacts. This includes full tunneling, cut and cover and trenching options.
- A full range of fencing, berming, and landscaping alternatives must also be addressed.
- Track construction must reduce noise and other impacts. For example, mitigation should include single weld tracks, straightened tracks, and embedded tracks where appropriate.
- Visual impacts from overhead catenaries system must be minimized. For example, painted/fluted/tapered poles and appropriate trolley wire for power sources might be appropriate mitigation measures.
- Disruption to neighborhood livability should be minimized through directional lights/horns for station and LRT operation through the neighborhoods; elimination or severely limiting the use of crossing bells; and carefully placed, judicious lighting.
- Speed limits of trains must conform to stated mitigation goals.
- No additional trackwork related installations (such as, switches, storage tracks, crossovers, etc.) should be allowed.
- Affected neighborhoods must agree with all parking proposals, including parking lots and parking restrictions on neighborhood streets.
- Minneapolis Park Board properties must be respected, with solutions to key areas (such are Cedar Lake Pkwy, Kenilworth Channel, and Cedar Lake Park) negotiated with the MPRB and neighborhoods.
- Bike and walking paths near SW LRT must be consistently maintained or improved and be safe and satisfactorily protected.
- Public safety must be considered, including maintenance of access for emergency vehicles in neighborhoods adjacent to LRT and the need for police services around station stops.
- Changes in car traffic patterns must be fully analyzed and addressed to the satisfaction of neighborhoods.
- Economic development must be limited to and encouraged only in appropriate areas.
- Freight rail must be relocated to another corridor and not co-located with the LRT on the Kenilworth corridor.
- During the construction period, neighborhood livability must be maintained, including bicycle trails and pedestrian connections through neighborhoods.
SW LRT Corridor Coalition
The neighborhoods in the Minneapolis Corridor, from north to south, are North Loop, Harrison, Bryn Mawr, Lowry Hill, Cedar Isles-Dean, West Calhoun, and Cedar Lake Park Association for Cedar Lake Park and Trails. So far the coalition is just in the idea/talking stage. The coalition would be a loose affiliation. The projected goals of the coalition are:
- Create unified voice of Minneapolis Corridor neighborhoods thus increasing our strength.
- Create a unifying identity of the Minneapolis Corridor.
- Support each neighborhood having a strong say in the design of the rail line itself and the station in its neighborhood.
- Assure designs of the rail line and stations enhance neighborhoods and minimize negative effects through appropriate mitigation.
- Move the results of Cedar Lake Park Association’s design charrette forward.
Expand the design charrette experience to the other parts of the Minnesota corridor in an effort to creatively enhance currently proposed designs.
- Seek funds to help underwrite the above efforts to enhance the designs of the SW LRT line and station in the Minneapolis Corridor.
- Come up with a more notable name for the whole line, similar to the Hiawatha Line, Central Corridor Line and the Bottineau Line.