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Met Council, Park Board deal clears the way for Green Line light-rail expansion

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Two groups have put an end to a disagreement over the route of a $1.65 billion project to extend the Green Line light rail from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

The Metropolitan Council and the Minneapolis Park Board announced they have come to an "understanding" after they argued over the routing of the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project through parkland in the wealthy area of Kenilworth.

The council wanted to build bridges over Kenilworth channel between Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, but the park board spent $500,000 on a study into the possibility of building tunnels instead, prompting Gov. Mark Dayton to accuse it of obstructing progress.

The park board was concerned about the impact of bridges on nearby parkland, but appears to have relented, as on Friday the two groups announced a deal to use bridges over the channel rather than tunnels (which would have added $145 million to the project cost.)

In exchange for its blessing, the park board will have a say in how the bridges are designed, while the Metropolitan Council has agreed to cover half of the $500,000 the board spent on the tunnel study.

"Thanks to the diligent work of the park board and project engineers, we now have a path forward for this critically important transit investment, which is a vital link in the 21st century transit system we will build here in the greater Twin Cities metro," council chair Adam Duininck in a press release.

Dayton reverses funding withdrawal

Unhappy with the park board "using tax dollars to obstruct progress," as reported by the Star Tribune, Dayton announced last month it would be slashing $3.6 million in state aid to Minneapolis' regional parks over the next two years.

But in the wake of the agreement, and after announcing a higher-than-expected budget surplus of almost $1.9 billion, Dayton announced that these cuts would be reversed and the park board will get the money after all.

According to the press release, the agreement will allow the Southwest LRT project to "move through the environmental review process more smoothly."

The project is currently in the development phase, with the Metropolitan Council hoping that construction should take place between 2016 and 2018, with the extended line expected to open to passengers in 2019.

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