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MnDOT Pulls Out of Environmental Review Process for Freight Reroute

Environmental review of a possible St. Louis Park freight reroute will be handled at the federal level as part of light rail planning.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has pulled out of the environmental review process for a potential St. Louis Park freight reroute—a procedural move now that the reroute is being considered along with light rail planning.

MnDOT was orginally the lead agency in examining potential environmental impacts of rerouting the Twin Cities & Western freight line through St. Louis Park, a move being considered to make way for the planned Southwest Light Rail Transit line.

However, the Federal Transit Administration declared in September that the proposed reroute should be included in light rail planning. This means that environmental review will be handled at the federal level as light rail planning unfolds.

Both the City of St. Louis Park and grassroots group Safety in the Park when MnDOT decided not to pursue a more extensive environmental impact statement. With MnDOT out of the mix, it is unclear how the appeals will be handled. Frank Pafko, who is the director of the Office of Environmental Stewardship at MnDOT, said the Minnesota Attorney General's brief on the appeal is due Jan. 3. Pafko added that the Minnesota Court of Appeals would need to rule on the particulars of the case.

The 15-mile southwest line, which will connect Minneapolis with Eden Prairie and run through St. Louis Park, is expected to open in 2018 at a cost of $1.25 billion. Last week, Hennepin County’s Regional Rail Authority with the Metropolitan Council that paves the way for $9.3 million in preliminary engineering on the line.

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