The plan is good news for St. Louis Park, which would avoid the re-routing of freight rail through the city, but Minneapolis residents and officials are putting up a fight. Dissension is building among the usually united Met Council and a Kenilworth group is preparing for a lawsuit.
Metropolitan Council member Gary Cunningham told the Star Tribune he plans to vote against the light rail project because administrators never answered questions about its environmental impact or fully explored other route options.
“I can’t think of another project where we’ve had this kind of acrimony,” he said “I’ve never seen this kind of railroading."Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak was the only member of the Met Council's Corridor Management Committee not to sign off on staff's shallow tunnel proposal. Should the Met Council approve the plan on Wednesday, the next step would be to go to the city for municipal consent.
No cities withheld municipal consent for the Central Corridor or Hiawatha light-rail projects, and Met Council chair Susan Haigh isn't saying whether she would consider pursuing Southwest light-rail without the metro area's largest city signing off.
The municipal consent process provides for multiple exchanges between the Met Council and Minneapolis, in which the city would suggest alterations and the council consider them.
Tom Johnson, an attorney representing Kenilworth residents opposed to the shallow tunnel option, told the Star Tribune the process could stretch well beyond the initial 75 days spelled out in state statue.
Two rounds of back-and-forth could take “at least four months," he said. "I bet you’re closer to six months.”