Letter: Met Council Needs Transparency

Safety in the Park Steering Committee: 'One thing we have learned is that we are lucky to have a City Council that listens to its residents. '

To the editor:

On Jan. 31 Safety in the Park sent a letter we sent to the St. Louis Park City Council asking for help. You will find it below this note. In the letter we reference two Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) community outreach groups, the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Business Advisory Committee (BAC). These groups have been meeting since the middle of last year and are the Met Council’s version of the Project Management Team (PMT). The PMT was put together by Hennepin County in 2011 as outreach before the Environmental Assessment Worksheet was issued.

 Each month when the CAC meets we are shown the latest SWLRT organizational charts while questions asked by Safety in the Park go unanswered.

Feb. 8 marked the third anniversary of Safety in the Park. In that time we have learned a great deal. One thing we have learned is that we are lucky to have a City Council that listens to its residents. We are still waiting to a response to this letter and as we wait the Met Council continues to make plans without community input.

—Jami LaPray, Thom Miller and The Safety in the Park Steering Committee

Dear Mayor Jacobs and Council Members Sanger, Mavity, Santa, Ross, Spano and Hallfin,

As reported last week in the Willmar West Central Tribune (see link below) meetings are planned between the Met Council and the TC&W. The Met Council will supposedly impart information about the SWLRT project to the public through the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) but the Met Council’s communications at these meetings have been off-point and meandering at best. Meaningful questions about the SWLRT-DEIS project are rarely answered.

For example, during the January CAC meeting Safety in the Park asked Mark Fuhrman (SWLRT Project Manager) the following question, “The TC&W has rejected the relocation plan in the SWLRT-DEIS with the following language, “…it is doubtful that the “preferred alternative” will ever be built.” We know the TC&W has veto power over any design. Therefore, any design that could be approved by the TC&W looks nothing like the plan in the DEIS. Will there be another DEIS for co-location/relocation? If there is not a new DEIS, what will be the method residents can use to understand and comment on any new design?” Mr. Fuhrmann responded by saying, “there are 750 responses … ideas will percolate up…”

For the last three years Safety in the Park has consistently voiced safety as our greatest concern, yet in that time, despite multiple studies, safety along the MN&S has never been seriously discussed. Now we are able to cite the report done by Tom Johnson, P.E. (See link below) as well as the comments by the TC&W railroad (See link below) and the Canadian Pacific railroad to substantiate our assertions. (See attached). Unless the money and or the will are found to straighten the tracks the MN&S will never be safe. The safety issues caused by co-location are surmountable. All one has to do is look at Blake Road on the SWLRT, the Bottineau line through Golden Valley or any one of the many co-located transit lines around the country to see this is true.

In light of the fact that Kimley-Horn, who wrote the EAW and is now the engineering company for the eastern half of the SWLRT, apparently never noticed that the proposed re-route “fails to meet recognized standards of engineering and safety” and that “All guiding specifications and design guidelines have been violated by this proposed plan” (TC&W Railroad DEIS comment, Appendix A, page 4) plus the fact that our questions about a new DEIS was never answered during the last CAC meeting, we believe the residents of St. Louis Park need greater access to information. Not only do residents need to be told the structure of the process for decision-making, but residents also need access to any and all discussions between the Met Council and the Railroads. Finally, residents need access to the directions given to the engineering companies.

It was not their responsibility to look out for the residents of St. Louis Park, yet TC&W, Mr. Johnson, and the Canadian Pacific have all done what our government agencies should have done and should be doing…they have put safety at the top of their reason for opposing the SWLRT-DEIS. Residents also spoke loud and clear in their opposition to the re-route. There are 297 letters of comment to the SWLRT-DEIS opposing the freight re-route (36% of 750 letters) While there are just 23 letters in favor of the re-route (.03% of 750 letters)*

Will the Met Council put safety first or won’t they? The stakes are too high to sit back and wait to see what course the Met Council takes. The residents of St. Louis Park need transparency from the first discussion and we need you to help us get it.

Thank you, 
Jami LaPray, Thom Miller and the Safety in the Park Steering Committee

*Informal tally of the 750 written comments submitted to the SWLRT-DEIS






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