Minneapolis objects, but committee approves Southwest LRT tunnels

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The Southwest light-rail project has lurched forward. Metro leaders voted in favor of putting the Southwest light rail in a tunnel through Minneapolis' Kenilworth corridor, despite opposition from Minneapolis city leaders, including Mayor Betsy Hodges, according to media reports.

The leaders voted 11-2 in favor of the tunnels, the Star Tribune says. The Metropolitan Council, which is overseeing the Southwest Corridor light-rail project, will vote on this recommendation at its April 9 meeting.

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Then what? The Star Tribune says, if approved, the plan will prompt negotiations to see if there's room for compromise or "if [Minneapolis] will threaten to play spoiler for the project."

Hennepin County, as well as all five cities impacted, will have to agree on the plan by June 29 in order to stay on track, KSTP says.

The project, which would cost $1.6 billion, will run 16 miles from downtown Minneapolis through St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, WCCO says.

For the last year the Metropolitan Council has been looking for different ways to appease people who live around where the Green Line extension from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie will be built, but everything the planners proposed made one group or another upset.

Metro leaders had confirmed their support for the tunnels last October, but Gov. Mark Dayton put the recommendation on hold after Minneapolis objected to the plan and demanded more studies, which delayed the project at the cost of at least $45 million, the Star Tribune says. These delays have pushed the project's opening date, originally set for 2018, to at least 2019.

Earlier this week, transit planners reaffirmed their recommendation to run the proposed light rail in two shallow tunnels through the Kenliworth recreation area of Minneapolis. The light-rail trains will emerge from the tunnels for about 20 seconds on a new bridge over the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, FOX 9 says.

The other option was to reroute freight traffic through St. Louis Park.

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