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Met Council delays recommendation on Southwest light-rail project

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The head of the Metropolitan Council on Wednesday agreed to delay a key recommendation on the size and scope of the Southwest light-rail transit project.

The Star Tribune reports that Met Council Chair Susan Haigh said that more details of the cost and construction of the line will be gathered in response to questions from mayors and representatives of the city of Minneapolis and several suburbs in the southwest metro. The Met Council had planned to accept an advisory panel's recommendations next week and then decide Aug. 28. Haigh said that engineers will need at least two more weeks to answer questions, which will likely push a decision into September.

MPR reports that planners are trying to decide whether to bury the light-rail trains in the Kennilworth corridor of Minneapolis, or reroute existing freight traffic to St. Louis Park.

Haigh said that decisions on the project must be made this fall to stay on track for state funding. Cost estimates have been rising. Plans for tunnels or rerouting freight trains push the cost of the project from an estimated $1.25 billion to between $1.58 billion and $1.82 billion.

A study late last year suggested that a stronger transit system would boost the economic strength of the Twin Cities. But Southwest light-rail project routing debates have been controversial. St. Louis Park residents packed city hall late last year to object to a proposal that would reroute mile-long freight trains to make room for the new line.

The Southwest line, also known as the green line extension, is expected to run a 15-mile route from Minneapolis through St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka into Eden Prairie.

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