About the Project
The planned Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project (METRO Green Line Extension) will operate from downtown Minneapolis through the communities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie, passing in close proximity to the city of Edina. The line will connect major activity centers in the region including downtown Minneapolis, Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, downtown Hopkins and the Opus/Golden Triangle employment area in Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. Ridership in 2040 is forecasted at approximately 34,000 average weekday boardings. The project will interline with the METRO Green Line, which will provide a one-seat ride to destinations such as the University of Minnesota, state Capitol and downtown St. Paul. It will be part of an integrated system of transitways, including connections to the METRO Blue Line, the proposed METRO Blue Line Extension, the Northstar Commuter Rail line, a variety of major bus routes along the alignment, and proposed future transitway and rail lines. The Metropolitan Council will be the grantee of federal funds. The regional government agency is charged with building the line in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The Southwest Corridor Management Committee, which includes commissioners from Hennepin County and the mayors of Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie, provides advice and oversight. Funding is provided by the Federal Transit Administration, Hennepin County, Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA), state of Minnesota, and other project partners. The Southwest LRT Project website is www.swlrt.org
The latest target starting date for passenger service is 2023.
Southwest LRT Notice of Decision
May 17, 2018
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has determined that the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA); Section 4(f) of the US Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (49 U.S.C. § 303 and 23 U.S.C. § 138); and related federal environmental statutes, regulations, and executive orders have been satisfied for the Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project (Project) modifications. The FTA issued an Amended Record of Decision which includes a Finding of No Significant Impact regarding the Project changes evaluated in the Southwest LRT Project Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) and Amended Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation dated February 2018. The Metropolitan Council as the Responsible Governmental Unit under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act has determined the Project changes do not have the potential for significant environmental effects, and a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is not required.
These decisions are supported by the Amended Record of Decision (NEPA decision), Amended Final Section 4(f) Evaluation, and Findings of Fact and Conclusion (MEPA decision) documents available at https://metrocouncil.org/swlrt/environmental/sea. These documents include responses to comments received, through the public comment period, on the Supplemental Environmental Assessment.
The Amended ROD and Findings of Fact and Conclusions apply to the 10 design modifications to the Project that were identified during final design and permitting processes that required further analysis to determine potential changes to impacts or mitigation. As the project sponsor and potential recipient of FTA financial assistance for the Project, the Metropolitan Council (Council) served as the co-lead agency with FTA in conducting the environmental review process.
The FTA issued a Final EIS in May 2016 and ROD in July 2016 on the Southwest LRT Project. The decisions and findings in this Amended ROD are based on and incorporate the Project modifications as described in the Supplemental EA. The decisions and findings made in the May 2016 Final EIS and July 2016 ROD remain in effect, except where this Amended ROD expressly alters them.
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.