While some St. Louis Park City Council members voiced concern Monday that a key freight rail decision could be coming out of nowhere, Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman said the city will be kept in the loop.
The council was discussing the county board’s next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday. City manager Tom Harmening told members that the county might use that meeting to decide on whether trains need to be relocated to St. Louis Park to make room for a regional light rail line, which raised more than a few eyebrows.
However, Dorfman said she would be “surprised” if any vote is taken on Tuesday. Instead, she said the meeting will provide a chance for county board members to digest a number of studies done surrounding the reroute issue, including one commissioned by St. Louis Park.
From there, the county will share what it discussed with other stakeholders, including the city, and likely vote on the matter at its next meeting in two weeks, Dorfman said.
“We want to get to the same place as the city of St. Louis Park,” Dorfman said.
At issue, however, is how to get to that place. Both sides have voiced support for the light rail plan, but the city has been against any proposal to reroute trains from Minneapolis’ Kenilworth Corridor—where the light rail is slated to run—to St. Louis Park. Instead, the city has pushed for co-location of freight and light rail within the corridor—an option that St. Louis Park officials claim would be cheaper and safer, as it would keep increased traffic away from .
But Dorfman said the county’s assumption has always been that if light rail goes through the Kenilworth Corridor, freight rail will have to move, in part because of federal regulations that are very strict on co-location for safety reasons.
Dorfman said she wants to work with the city, but added she was “confused” by the council’s recent decision with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
“We feel we’re a partner with MnDOT,” Dorfman said. “We felt we were with the city, too. The city has decided to go an alternate route.”
The county sent a letter to the city on July 15 requesting that the two sides meet, and though the city has not formally responded to the letter, council members seemed generally receptive to such a meeting when they discussed it on Monday. But Dorfman said the city’s lawsuit could put a meeting on hold.
“We’ll need to consider that,” the commissioner said.