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Another lawsuit over SW light rail line, this time in Minnetonka

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Residents of Minnetonka are suing over the proposed route of the Southwest Light Rail Line through their neighborhood, hoping to force the Metropolitan Council to change it.

The lawsuit claims the planned route of the rail line, which will connect Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, would harm a 49-acre wooded public park and trail called Opus Woods, MPR News reports.

The Opus Woods Conservation Association and the owners of the Claremont Apartments, a 330-unit development just 100 feet from the proposed route, claim the Met Council did not adequately consider the route's impact on that open space, according the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal.

According to the lawsuit, federal regulations prohibit putting transportation projects through public parks, recreational areas and other sensitive sites unless there's no viable alternative.

The plaintiffs contend the Met Council didn't consider other options to avoid going through the open space, the Business Journal reports.

A Met Council spokesperson told the Business Journal the council was reviewing the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor of Minnetonka doesn't sound too happy about the lawsuit. Terry Schneider told MPR News that changing the route at this point would be expensive and could harm sensitive wetlands in the area. His city, along with all the others along the route, has signed off on the plans.

Schneider also recognizes that residents of the apartment building will be impacted by the train going by.

"That's what happens when you put light rail lines through existing communities," Schneider told MPR News. "Somebody has an impact from it."

This is just the latest in a series of legal challenges against the $1.6 billion project. The Lakes and Parks Alliance, a group of Minneapolis residents who live along the route, filed a similar lawsuit last year. That case has not been resolved.

One sticking point was resolved last month, when the Met Council and the Minneapolis Park Board announced a deal on routing the train through the Kenilworth area of the city, which would use bridges over the Kenilworth channel rather than tunnels.

But the funding picture for the project is still a bit cloudy. Republicans who now control the Minnesota House said they will oppose any state funding for the project.

The state’s share would be $120 million. But more is at stake than just the amount of money. If the state doesn’t put up its share of the funding, the federal government may well back out of the deal as well.

The Met Council is hoping that construction will begin next year, with service expected to open to passengers in 2019.

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