Light Rail May Relocate Freight Line Through Football Field

The Metropolitan Council’s new proposals for re-routing existing freight rail to make room for the Southwest Light-Rail Corridor include a route through the St. Louis Park High School football field.

Light Rail May Relocate Freight Line Through Football Field

The Metropolitan Council is mulling new options as it aims to resolve a dispute over what to do with freight rail in order to make room for the Southwest Light-Rail Corridor from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

Construction of the $1.2 billion light-rail line is slated to begin in 2015, with service set to launch in 2018. But a contentious sticking point has been what to do about freight rail, which currently runs through St. Louis Park.

Met Council officials this week outlined to the St. Louis Park City Council several alternatives, including new “relocation” options, which it described as having “gentler curves and a flatter alignment” than reroute options previously outlined in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The relocation option involves moving Twin Cities & Western Railroad’s trains to Canadian Pacific Railway’s Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern (MN&S) track in St. Louis Park and BNSF’s Wayzata line in St. Louis Park and Minneapolis. The reroute would make room for the addition of light-rail tracks through the Kenilworth area, according to the Met Council.

The recently announced relocation options involve building freight tracks through the existing St. Louis Park High School football field, which would be relocated to reunite it with the main campus down the street, or building freight tracks that “skirt the field to the east,” according to the Met Council.

Mark Fuhrmann, the Met Council’s lead on light-rail projects, told Finance & Commerce that about 63 properties, mostly townhomes, would need to be acquired if light-rail and freight trains were to run together along Minneapolis’ Kenilworth rail and bike trail corridor.

To skirt the line to the east of the football field, about 30 properties, both homes and small businesses, would have to be acquired. Running the freight line through the football field would affect 42 properties, because commercial sites would have to be acquired to make way for a new football field, Finance & Commerce reported.

Instead of relocating freight rail, however, the Met Council is also considering the option of “co-location”—building light-rail tracks along the freight tracks and an existing trail at ground level, moving or elevating the trail, elevating the light-rail tracks, building a “shallow tunnel” for light-rail tracks, or creating “deep twin tunnels,” with one tunnel for each light-rail track, the Met Council said.

The Met Council noted that both the relocation and co-location options would “have impacts on residences and businesses, including the freight railroads.”

Twin Cities Business’ April cover story featured in-depth coverage of the stare-down between the Twin Cities & Western Railroad and public officials, as well as the history of railroads in the Twin Cities. Twin Cities & Western has said it is wary of the undulating MN&S grades, curvature, and proximity to St. Louis Park High School for their potential to insert costly inefficiencies into its operations. Click here to learn more.

The Met Council will hold public meetings on June 13 to discuss the various alternatives for resolving the issue.

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