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On Southwest light rail, it's Minneapolis vs. everyone else

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In the debate over the Southwest Corridor light rail line, the city of Minneapolis is becoming more isolated as it fights for a route that will be acceptable to residents in the neighborhood most affected by the train, the Star Tribune reports.

The next few weeks will be critical for the future of the project, which is designed to provide rail service between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie in the southwest metro. A panel of leaders from the metro area is set to vote Wednesday on a plan for the project, and that recommendation will be passed forward to the Metropolitan Council, which is expected to decide on a plan at its April 9 meeting., according to the Star Tribune. It's possible that Minneapolis will vote against the project, the paper says.

The disagreement over the route has delayed the project's opening by a year and increased the cost to between $1.6 billion and $1.8 billion.

Minneapolis is concerned about the impact of the rail line on the Kenilworth corridor, which already has freight trains and a bike path running between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. The city wants the freight trains to be rerouted to St. Louis Park. But St. Louis Park doesn’t want the freight trains, and Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie — the other suburbs along the future line — appear to be allied with St. Louis Park, the Star Tribune reports.

The suburbs would rather keep the freight line where it is, and run the light rail trains in tunnels that would be dug under the bike and pedestrian paths. Confused? Watch a video here that explains the various options.

Residents of the Kenilworth area, some of whom are influential DFLers, have campaigned to reroute the freight or block the light rail. They're also concerned about the disruption that will be caused if the tunnels are built, and a Minneapolis city representative asked at a recent meeting whether they could be compensated for enduring the turmoil.

Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider had little sympathy for that request. He told other metro leaders that residents in his community also will be affected by the construction.

“That’s just the reality,” he said. “They have to put up with it. They’ll benefit from it in the long term, but they don’t get compensated for their property value or inconvenience.”

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