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Let's Examine the Facts and Statistics of Southwest LRT

Southwest Light Rail Transit's role in providing access to jobs, diverse opportunities, sustainable and living communities, and educational access are at the forefront of discussion.

Recently an editorial appeared and in the Star Tribune that was submitted by Mound City Councilman David Osmek, who argues that the costs involving putting in the SWLRT transit extension is prohibitive and we should simply get off the train. 

Recently, three leaders of metro area chambers of commerce crafted .

David's piece fails to cover three key aspects of the Southwest LRT project, namely access to good jobs, the true costs of business as usual, and the impacts on the state if we simply do nothing. The discussions around LRT can be emotional and data can be bent to support any argument. But one thing we all need to think about is what will be the legacy we leave future generations? Will it be decaying infrastructure, expensive roads and bridges to subsidize, prohibitively expensive maintenance and repairs, and no relief from soaring and constrained carbon based fuels? Or will it be one that leverages advanced technology, efficient modes of transportation and cost effective choice for everyone?  

I encourage all of us to learn about the complete costs and benefits and to participate in upcoming sessions later this summer on the SWLRT program, which will be hosted by the Met Council and Hennepin County Rail Authority.  I along with Patch will let you all know when they will take place. It's only by learning and applying all the data—and not just cherry picking the points that David structures in his lone viewpoint (a singular perspective, mind you)—that we can all craft and understand the real benefits from a sustainable transit network meeting the needs of society.

For more information on SWLRT and it's role and function within the transit network for our Metro area please check out the new website at: www.swlrt.org

Thanks,

Bill

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mark Purdy February 08, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Bill, Are ALL the direct cost of Re Locating thru St Louis Park and Co Locating thru Kennelworth Honestly and correctly identified? Is the relocating Freight Rail on the Dan Patch really THE BEST way? The Less Expensive way?
Bill James February 09, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Mark, These are excellent questions and with the combining of SWLRT and the Freight Rail Re-Route issue into one unified view the next step to be done is a full EIS analysis of both pieces as part of the requirement issued by the FTA. The full engineering a program impacts relating to both costing as well as operational impacts will be done as part of the Environmental Impact Study underway. The consulting engineering firm has already been contracted with to pull this data together and it will be analyzed by MetCouncil, Hennepin County and the FTA as part of the EIS review to be done. From that we will get the full answers to your questions and expect this to be done between now and the June timeframe. Bill
Matthew Kilanowski February 10, 2012 at 12:44 AM
What if the new total cost exceeds the Greenway/Nicollet routing? The Kennilworth route was chosen for its lower cost, which was supposed to make up for the loss in ridership on the low-density route.
Bill James February 13, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Matthew, The Greeway/Nicollet routing is not under review from a cost analysis standpoint. Only the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) which was discussed and reviewed after significant Met Council and Hennepin County engineering reviews and publically across all six cities who weighed in on the design layouts and routings. This work was done back in 2010. There were 4 SWLRT routings examined, the one chosen was route 3A known as the LPA. The Greenway/Nicollet routing was deemed to be infeasible due to the high design and build-out costs (significant amounts of tunneling, mitigation, property realignment-near Lake and up Nicollet, and the impacts on buildings along the Nicollet corridor which are protected under various historic property designations and registrations.) The costs were enough on the Greenway/Nicollet corridor routing that the cost index subsequently calculated made that routing unfeasible from an investment level to secure necessary Federal funding. 50% of the cost of the SWLRT is funded by the Federal Transportation Administration and they have specific guidelines and requirements for their contribution to a program. So the analysis which will be done is the routing on the table, 3A through the existing Kenwood corridor as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) underway. The good news is both LRT and Freight will be studied and analyzed from cost, feasibility, mitigation and alignment. Hope this helps.
Matthew Kilanowski February 15, 2012 at 07:51 AM
The original cost of the Kenwood corridor did not include the high cost of the freight rail realignment. It was also conforming to old federal guidelines that were in effect under the previous administration and no longer apply. I realize that this is the "preferred" route that was decided upon, I just find it unfortunate that we can't have the flexibility of reevaluating the Minneapolis end of the project now that the cost analysis rules are more toward benefiting the highest number of overall riders as opposed to the old way of simply counting potential new riders. Instead of spending the money to move the freight rail, it seems smarter to spend the extra money putting the line down the more expensive route through Uptown where there are more people that could be served by this costly and needed transportation improvement. But it is what it is, and all I can do is voice my displeasure of the inflexibility of the process. Additionally, the City of Minneapolis is planning a streetcar line for the Greenway and Nicollet in the absence of a light rail line anyway. So, yes, the area will be served by an upgrade from bus to a higher-capacity rail transit despite the Southwest line being routed to avoid Uptown. It's just a shame that taxpayers have to pay for two rail lines, and on top of that the higher capacity three-car light rail trains will be going through an area with far less population density than where the single-car streetcars will be.

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