The city of St. Louis Park has taken another step in making its opposition to a controversial freight rail reroute known.
On Friday, the city filed an appeal to the state's decision to not pursue an environmental impact statement for the proposed rerouting of trains away from Minneapolis' Kenilworth Corridor and through St. Louis Park. An EIS would more thoroughly look at the ramifications of the reroute, which is being considered because of a regional light rail plan that would presumably use the Kenilworth Corridor.
(Editor's Note: You can see the city's full case by clicking on the PDF at right)
Frank Pafko, who is the director of the Office of Environmental Stewardship at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said an EIS is only done if a project has the potential for significant environmental impact, and he didn’t see that in this case.
“What I saw was an existing freight rail line that’s not going out of historic norms,” Pafko said. “If they were building a whole new track, that might be a different story.”
The city, which already voiced its opposition to the plan in a , is arguing that the reroute would have significant impacts on the area, especially due to increased freight traffic near .
It is the second appeal to the state's decision—local grassroots group Safety in the Park .
Pafko said the only real impact of the appeals at this point is the time it will take the parties to argue in court, as activities related to the reroute proposal can continue unless a judge orders them to stop.
A more significant delay could occur if a judge overturns MnDOT’s decision and orders an EIS. Pafko said he estimates an EIS for this project would take at least a year. Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman has said the reroute question needs to be answered this year to keep light rail on schedule, but it’s not clear what impact an ongoing EIS would have on the decision.
Dorfman said on Tuesday that the appeals themselves don't necessarily mean that the process is coming to a halt. She added that the county will likely vote on the reroute question at the end of this month.