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Southwest LRT and the NIMBY Veto

March 20, 2014 By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow

As crunch time for the proposed Southwest light rail line looms, the controversy over where it should run and what should move out of its way keeps generating much more heat than light. And that's a shame for a project that promises significant benefits even for the localities that seem to be bent on derailing it if they don't get their way.

To update on recent developments:

  • The expected source of at least one-third of the Southwest's $1.5 billion or so cost delivered an ultimatum that if the Metropolitan Council and cities along the route don't give final approvals by June 30 the money will be shifted to the northwest metro Bottineau LRT instead.
  • The freight railroad at the center of a dispute between Minneapolis and St. Louis Park declared unacceptable an alternate reroute through the suburb, which folks there opposed anyway, while the Met Council doubled its previous cost estimate for the new tracks to more than $220 million.
  • An 11th-hour proposal to tunnel the light rail under a Minneapolis lakes channel to mollify critics of bridging over it got skeptical responses from Mayor Betsy Hodges and an Anoka County representative on the Counties Transit Improvement Board, who noted a cost increase of up to $85 million and said: "Someone's got their hands on the CTIB's wallet."

Can't we all just get along?

Apparently not, as long as emotions run so high, even among people with no direct interest in the outcome. Just check out the vitriolic, sometimes ad hominem comment string engendered by my last major post on this issue.

Lost in all this angry back-and-forth is the Southwest's strong potential for boosting jobs and economic development, easing congestion on some of the region's busiest highways and providing a key link in a true 21st century transit system. It is projected to carry 30,000 riders a day by 2030, traffic that could spur commerce at many station nodes along the way.

In a Star Tribune commentary, Minneapolis Council Member Linea Palmisano and retired Metro Transit planner Aaron Isaacs argued for rerouting freight trains for the sake of pedestrian safety and development potential. It would remove freight trains from the vicinity of two stations in Minneapolis and two in St. Louis Park, they wrote.

"There has been much talk about 'sharing the burden' of SWLRT project between Minneapolis and St. Louis Park," they added, "but this is one area in which both cities would share an enormous benefit."

That's an insight that ought to have a more prominent place in the debate. Why it doesn't tracks back to our inherent fear of change far outweighing any accompanying positives, as well as an outsized contemporary concept of property rights. The latter phenomenon was artfully skewered in a Planetizen post by Touro Law Center assistant professor Michael Lewyn titled "The Theory Behind NIMBYism."

Lewyn noted "a widespread cultural assumption that we have a property right to veto whatever happens within a few blocks of our homes" stemming "from the perfectly reasonable idea that people are affected by 'externalities' arising from how others used nearby property."

That has led to something far beyond Not In My Back Yard, he says. It's more like BANANA -- Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. For example, Lewyn said, Denver residents opposed proposed rezoning that would allow taller buildings up to five stories, in effect asserting their own property rights over those of the owners of the parcels to be built on.

"Because NIMBY activists have so much power over development ... nearly anything could be interpreted as an externality," Lewyn added. "If a project is more affordable than the rest of the neighborhood ... it could lower property values or, worse still, bring in poorer people ... If the project is more expensive ... it could lead to something called 'gentrification.' Even if the project is neither more nor less affordable ... neighbors can always find an aesthetic ground to object."

Among the pernicious results are higher city housing prices when denser development is blocked and increased sprawl to distant farmland with fewer NIMBY interests, regardless of steeper infrastructure and environmental costs.

While Lewyn focuses on vertical development rather than transportation's horizontal kind, it can apply to the latter as well. Opposition to new trains nearby, freight or passenger, is holding up the Southwest. But, as is often the case with Lewyn's kind of radical analysis, he falls short when it comes to a remedy.

"It seems to me that the NIMBY veto has outlived its usefulness, and that neighbors' 'right' to veto nearby development has been so widely abused that it should be eliminated," he concluded. "The more difficult question (for me) is: what procedural mechanisms do we create to eliminate this veto?"

That's the question for us, too. We may not need to eliminate the NIMBY veto to achieve progress, but an end to light-rail gridlock may rely on scaling back its power.

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Reino Paaso says:

    March 24, 2014 at 7:56 am

    The whole Southwest LRT was a silly plan to begin with. How many people around Cedar Lake and lake of the aisles ride public transportation. It would seem to me that would make much more sense to run it down Hennepin or Lyndale to downtown. If that didn’t work they could always just try running the light rail itself through St. Louis Park and then along 55 into downtown.

    • Nancy Gertner says:

      March 24, 2014 at 9:44 am

      I believe the routing of transit rail through the high density commercial districts (streets) of Uptown was rejected on the basis of the disruption it causes during the construction period. We learned during the Green Line rail construction along University Avenue (Minneapolis-Saint Paul) that the inconvenient access to businesses along the route during construction caused many customers to stop patronizing the affected businesses, who subsequently “starved” and went out of business.

      • Reino Paaso says:

        March 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm

        This sounds like “build it where it’s cheaper rather than where it is most needed.” I believe this is the same thinking that has been a major impetus behind the type of urban sprawl that mass transit expansion hopes to reduce. If University Avenue can survive LRT construction, and it did, then certainly a much more vibrant Uptown could as well.

    • Roseann Lloyd says:

      March 24, 2014 at 11:47 am

      I’m no longer a car user, due to vision problems.  I’ve been following the SW LRT debate back and forth.  My biggest frustration with both sides/multiple POVs is this:

      The Freight Trains (in caps for their legal power) were granted right of way long ago, and no government body can trump them.  When folks talk about moving the freight trains to and fro they’re not taking into account their legal standing. 

      The SW LRT will transport workers (ex-car drivers) in both directions—the most car-congested area in SW to downtown Mpls. and St. Paul.  To and Fro.  It will also transport people to and fro lakes and beautiful places along the routes.

      Let’s celebrate all the green spaces and people of our region.

    • Roseann Lloyd says:

      March 24, 2014 at 11:52 am

      SW LRT goes way to the SW, many miles beyond Cedar Lake, check out the map!

  • Julie says:

    March 24, 2014 at 8:00 am

    More influential than the “NIMBY” factor is the “LRT good” factor.  Light rail transit has taken on a mythical quality in the minds of many people.  I was one of them.  I was an “IMBY”.  I believed in the mythology that LRT was good, no matter what.  I believed the rhetoric, it would increase access to jobs for my fellow urbanites, it would help reduce carbon emissions, it’s a green approach to transportation, it will reduce highway congestion, and so forth.  Then, my neighbors, a couple of lefty women who just moved here from San Francisco, said, “What are you talking about? Every liberal knows that this is a tool of sprawl pushed by business chambers. It’s not green at all.”  “What?” I responded.  “We all love LRT. In fact, as a Democrat, it’s mandatory.”  But they are researchers, and actually read the Met Council’s DEIS study, in which it actually demonstrates that air quality would worsen along most of the alignment, only improving by 2050 due to stricter emission regulations.  The DEIS study shows SWLRT will only take an estimated 4,000 round trip cars off the roads during those congested times (out of over 100,000 rush hour drivers), and there is very little reverse commuting from the city to the suburbs for those jobs just waiting for this train to deliver underemployed urban residents! “LRT good” mythology is compelling us to build a very expensive train that will actually do little beyond feeding our hunger for a transit answer with junk food at the expense of the quality of our Chain of Lakes.  LRT can be “good” but only if it is done right.  It needs to serve density, SWLRT does not.  It needs to primarily meet transportation needs, not development desires of the business chambers, SWLRT leaves Minneapolis’ most congested areas (Uptown & Phillips) underserved.  It could have served BOTH of those communities!  But this train alignment was designed under Bush Administration criteria, “in and out” of cities with as little contact as possible with “those people” was a driving force.  LRT good?  Yes, but only when it is done right.  SWLRT is not.

    • Roseann Lloyd says:

      March 24, 2014 at 11:50 am

      The proposed plans for connecting light rail lines = street cars [trolleys] on Lake and Nicollet.  Those streets not deemed wide enough for multiple-use w/ light rail.

    • Greg Genz says:

      March 24, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Thank you for a sane response. I also think a rational discussion should be had about utilizing the low volume freight railroad (TCWR) as a “South Star” for the Savage/Burnsville/Lakeville area. I have grown tired of hearing how many temporary construction jobs LRT generates. It is becoming a self-sustaining industry, over-promising results and only delivering on daily disruption of neighborhoods and lives. While we are at it, wouldn’t utilization of the low volume rail line to Hudson have enabled a bridge with less impact than the new St. Croix crossing to be considered? Modern cities grew off of their rail corridors and those rail beds, less used, should have more value to us than bike ways

  • Nancy Gertner says:

    March 24, 2014 at 9:37 am

    If only this transportation issue were so simple. The “cast of characters” is long. City councils and mayors, whose “municipal consent” is desired for the rail project. Hennepin County Commissioners. The Met Council, the lead agency. Corridor Management Commission. Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB). And, on the federal level, the Surface Transportation Board (STB), not mentioned in this commentary. Important, because if anyone has “veto” power in this issue, it looks like the STB is that power.

    With one position vacant, the STB is currently comprised of two members, presidential appointees confirmed by the US Senate. STB approval of freight rail rerouting is required, and the board has a history of not approving new routes that are not acceptable to the railroad. The board’s purpose is to protect the interests of the transportation industry. I believe that the route that the TC&W railroad currently takes through St Louis Park was built as a passenger rail line to take people to the race track at Savage, back when Dan Patch was a working race horse.

    Meanwhile, back in the 21st Century, waking up to a news story this morning about a transit train in Chicago that jumped the tracks at O’Hare airport (apparently injuring 32 passengers on the train, and none on the escalator the train jumped onto just before 3AM), I noticed that the word “safety” appears only once in your commentary, in a sentence on “development potential and pedestrian safety” around transit stations in Minneapolis and Saint Louis Park. While “development potential” is a noble urban planning concept, I don’t think it should trump safety.

    But this article is about NIMBY, so let me tell you about my “back yard.” As a Saint Louis Park homeowner, I consider my “back yard” to include more than the feet specified in my property description. I am one of those homeowners that has no children in the district (ISD 283), and that ranks me with 75-80 percent of the SLP homeowners, who are empty nesters, but have a history of voting to increase our property taxes (multiple times) to support our public schools!

    The schools in my “back yard” include Saint Louis Park High School, Park Spanish Immersion School, and a nursery school. The SLP School Board has taken a position to oppose routing more freight rail traffic near the schools, which have several thousand students present on a school day. Freight hauled by the trains can include cargo that is hazardous or flammable, such as ethanol.

    Near these schools is a power substation of Excel Energy, which provides electricity to western suburbs including Saint Louis Park, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, along with part of Minneapolis. The proposed freight rail routing recently drawn up in the Transystems plan runs the line for the freight rail through a portion of this electrical power substation property. In a 3 March letter from Excel to Met Council SWLRT Project Engineer James Alexander, Excel’s regional Vice President expressed concerns about running freight rail so close to transmission lines carrying voltage up to 35KV (35,000 volts). Yeah, let’s run a train with flammable cargo next to a power substation near schools. A train with over 100 cars is over a mile long. Yes, I think that could generate a lot of heat, AND light!

    Interested in more park perspective on safety concerns? Check this website, which includes many documents related to the very complicated project of extending light rail service from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie (Green Line), and continuing freight rail service through Minneapolis and suburbs.

  • Michael Hardy says:

    March 24, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Putting the light rail tracks parallel to the bicycle path down the greenway (which was a railroad right of way through the 20th century) would avoid both Kennilworth and the dangerous St. Louis Park freight re-route, without any need for anything as drastic and expensive as a tunnel under the channel that connects the lakes.

  • Bruce Center says:

    March 24, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Mr. DeFeibre is trying to frame the Southwest LRT as a narrow NIMBY issue.  The NIMBY part is certainly true - but the primary objections - at least in this forum, and the city of Minneapolis in general—is that the proposed route does not benefit the city.  It is simply a bad use of parkland designed to get people from the distant suburbs into and out of downtown as quickly as possible.  If the route ran down Hennepin or Lyndale - or ran along the Midtown Greenway, which is an old train line anyway, it would see substantial city use and be of major benefit to Minneapolis as well.

  • Bryan K says:

    March 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

    The cry of NIMBYism is itself a kind of knee-jerk reaction, easily applied both to those who cry foul over any change or development, and to those who have a legitimate beef. When I moved here from SoCal 12 years ago I welcomed the conversion to a group home of the house next door. When the property owner bought a second house across the street, I grew concerned. When the same outfit purchased a third home on the same block I took action. My view: every neighborhood should support the presence of a group home and no residential block should have to support three. A quiet neighborhood of single family homes should not be made into a campus for one person’s business interests. Standing against the group homes, I weathered numerous charges of NIMBYism, racism, and descrimination against the handicapped, often times by know-nothing, knee-jerk, do-gooders whose philosophical views in such matters were probably quite similar to mine. Is this NIMBYism? You’ll have to decide.
    Similarly, I strongly support construction of the SWLRT line. I also support leaving freight traffic where it is, in longstanding freight corridors that are straight, wide, flat, and relatively safe. There are two major freight lines running through St. Louis Park. No credible person wants to eliminate freight traffic on those lines. What I and many others in St. Louis Park find objectionable is the proposal to connect the two lines via a spur line of old, winding, elevated tracks running within 30-80 feet of homes, parks, schools, businesses, and our community food shelf. Study after study has shown every variation of this proposal to be disruptive, costly, and unsafe. Many safer, cheaper options exist, although many of them have thus far been eliminated from consideration without adequate debate or public input. Why? One suspects that power and influence may carry more weight here than the overall public good. This is NIMBYism at its worst, but you’ll rarely find it categorized as such in press accounts of this issue.
    Leaving the freight where it is may require moving a segment of bike trail. It may mean building a bridge or digging tunnels (the least disruptive, least expensive option of running light rail on a single track for a short distance—a solution that works very well in other cities—was dismissed without explanation months ago). These decisions will have an impact on the aesthetic quality of a very beautiful, very exclusive area of Minneapolis. However, to my mind at least, the quality of the view along the Kenilworth Corridor cannot justify a diminished quality of life in St. Louis Park, the diminished quality of our schools, the greatly increased risk to our community’s health and safety. Is this NIMBYism? You’ll have to decide.

  • Donald C. Willeke says:

    March 24, 2014 at 11:20 am

    C’mon, 2020,  be realistic and truthful:  It is not Nimby-ism or Banana-ism to criticize a project that was poorly conceived and terribly poorly planned from the get-go in that it did not take into account all the problems that the contemplated route would encounter nor the very limited value of that route to Minneapolis as compared with other routes.  Be honest about it, please!  The SWLRT was planned the way it was “because the long-used and currently-used railroad right-of-way was “there”, and for no other reason—certainly not because it was the most sensible route, or would be the most-used route (which, after all, is what MASS transit project sare SUPPOSED to be for).  That is equivalent to the drunk searching under the lamp post for the keys that he admitted were lost over in the dark park, “because this is where the light is”.  The fact that something-less-than-deeply-thoughtful planners have spent $30 million without considering all the problems is no reason to throw good money after bad.  Wake up!

  • I completely agree with article says:

    March 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    I completely agree with everything stated in this article ... The objections to the Southwest Corridor extension to the Metro Transit Green Line light rail system is a perfect example of, as the saying goes, “cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face” ... Everyone has much to gain from the Southwest Corridor extension ... Minneapolis, St Paul and a significant chunk of the most traffic congested suburbs ... The sad part about this scenario is that the people who are objecting to this project are typically liberal thinking, public transit supporting people who have decided that they don’t want to see or hear the public transit they support elsewhere ... I live in Minneapolis ... I use public transit exclusively ... I have lived in Uptown and worked in Eden Prairie and I know how difficult it is to accomplish that commute and I know how much I would have appreciated having the Southwest extension to the Green Line place ... I also support steetcars on other high density corridors in the core cities ... Hennepin Avenue ... Nicollet Avenue ... Midtown Greenway ... Central Avenue ... Lake Street ... etc ... I also support a move by the Metro Council to override a Minneapolis veto since Minneapolis neighborhoods don’t seem to understand how much benefit the Southwest corridor extension is going to Bring to Minneapolis and the entire metropolitan area ... I am very much looking forward to the opening of the Central Corridor segment of the Green Line of June 24 ... and I would very much like to be eagerly anticipating the opening of the Southwest Corridor extension to the Green Line in 2018 ... as well as the future openings of Streetcar lines on Hennepin ... Nicollet ... Central ... Lake Street ... Midtown Greenway ... etc ... The Bard of Franklin Avenue ...

  • WE WANT A SUBWAY! says:

    March 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Amen Julie, you hit it on the head. LRT done wrong is just goodies for developers, the drivers of sprawl, etc. Oh and also its a collosal wasted of tax payer money when LRT is done wrong… Oh and it ruins the LRT and transit movements because opponents of them can point back to failed or poorly engineered/planned routes and say that it was flawed. Not to mention the money it costs to fix them later, if that would ever happen. Tell you what smart pants designer people and other yuppies who want to force this bad route down our throats, maybe do your job early on next time and FIGHT for a well planned route from the public interest instead of from the interest in your patrons who pay for you fancy lifestyle. As usual class plays a huge but silent role in all this. Its ironic but cool to see that one wealthy group opposing another wealthy group may derail a stupid route and force a good route: Kenwooders vs. Developer interests. I side with the Kenwooders here. Were they not opposed to this no one of lower class would ever succeed in throwing weight around to force a reroute.

  • James Oliver Smith Jr says:

    March 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I agree with everything said in this article ... I am a resident of Minneapolis ... a full-time user of public transit and I feel that both Minneapolis and St Paul and all of the suburbs have much to gain from this valuable transit corridor ... It will be an excellent complement to the Hiawatha segment of the Blue Line, the future Bottineau Corridor of the Blue Line, and Centrol Corridor segment of the Green Line ... I have lived in Uptown and commuted to a job in Eden Prairie and I can tell you that it is an arduous, slow, frustrating commute ... whether it is by car or currently existing public transit ... The Southwest Corridor extension to the Green Line is desperately needed to reduce congestion, to improve the quality of life of all Twin Cities residents and to move people between residences and the 250,000 jobs in the southwest and the 160,000 jobs in Minneapolis and all of the jobs along University Ave and all of the jobs in downtown St Paul ... The Twin Cities is the 16th largest metropolitan area in the United States and it ranks in the top ten of U.S. metropolitan areas in many contexts: livability, cycle friendliness, quality of life, longevity, environmental stewardship, etc ... However, in public transit, it is quickly falling behind many metropolitan areas that are even smaller than the Twin Cities: Denver, Portland, San Diego, Sacramento ... even Salt Lake City ... When I was a young man I lived in Boston and was spoiled by good access to many modes of transportation across the Boston metropolitan area ... a car was a ball and chain ... public transit was a blessing ... If a person wants to escape the enormously publicly subsidized car-culture in the Twin Cities it is very difficult ... The Twin Cities needs to climb back to the service levels it once experienced with what was once the largest trolley system in the country, where there were 530 miles of track, over a thousand trolleys and where no spot in Minneapolis was never more than 400 yards away from a trolley station ... Metro Transit has a good plan to develop a multi-modal system across the Twin Cities and I very much support that plan ... which includes the Southwest Extension to the Green Line and street cars for other high density corridors ... such as Hennepin ... Nicollet ... Central ... Lake Street ... Midtown Greenway ... As a voting resident of Minneapolis I strongly support a Metro Transit override of the Minneapolis’ veto of the current Southwest Corridor Green Line Extension ... We need rail transit throughout the metropolitan area ... That is the only way that we can attract the spectrum of riders that is needed to reduce congestion, improve mobility, reduce pollution, increase efficiency, improve effectiveness and foster more synergy across the metropolitan area ... A public transportation system cannot be built on buses alone ... Buses are only effective when used as a supplement ot rail transit ... Rail transit is needed for the heavy lifting ... The Bard of Franklin Avenue ...

    • Bill Dooley says:

      March 24, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      Look at today’s piece regarding a combined SWLRT and Bottineau line! We need innovative urban planning and not the same old suburban-centric planning which made assumptions when SWLRT first went to the drawing board that are no longer relevant today.

      • WE WANT A SUBWAY! says:

        March 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm

        Amen Bill Dooley! This whole better hurry up and make another major transportation mistake BS needs to stop. You don’t make important decisions that last for hundreds of years so quickly and blithely, so we don’t need all the pot banging about deadlines when personally I think we all know that the Bottineau line will be a HUGE success and really ought to have been prioritized in the first place with the gigantic numbers of transit dependent people in North Minneapolis. That line from what I heard will need some good redesign as well so that it goes all the way north not just barely north. We need a coup d’etat in urban planning in our city because they have made almost nothing but blunders for decades, and the “logic” they use has never made sense, was never fair, and never will be. I would love to see a way to have a big line north and also a line that does indeed hit the burbs in the SW, but before it hits the burbs it needs to serve the city it runs through and to. Get a clue: without Minneapolis this area would be a residential swamp of little value. We need to reinvigorate our city and that comes with making good forward thinking progressive decisions that FUNCTION rather than look pretty on a poster on the wall. And like my name implies, we need these lines to be off grade so that they can add to capacity rather than create more cluster-f’s. Short term thinking gets us into these messes everytime. Now we need to spend the money wisely by doing it underground or overground and doing it in a route that makes sense. And I assure you such smart planning and implementation will save millions if not billions in actual revenue costs and in averted lost opportunity costs.

        • James Oliver Smith Jr says:

          March 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm

          Personally, I couldn’t care less what route is taken to the Southwest quadrant of the Twin Cities ... Whatever route is taken will get people to jobs in both directions ... Development will occur along the route ... and the entire metropolitan area will benefit ... The route they have chosen is typical of routes chosen by city planners everywhere because it is an existing rail route and ... with the exception of the Kenilworth community ... there is very little resistance to this route ... overall ... If I were to choose ... I would go through Uptown ... but I also know that taking a four-lane swath out of Hennepin Avenue through Uptown ... or removing a row of houses and businesses ... to make room for light rail would encounter fierce resistance ... I also know that the cost of dismantling and rebuilding all of the subterranean infrastructure beneath Uptown ... and the construction of the tunnels ... would be more expensive than even the tunnels beneath the Kenilworth corridor ... I love tunnels ... I’ve lived in Boston and used their system ... It is my favorite multimodal system on the planet ... but they started their tunnel system before anyone else ... even before New York ... in 1897 ... Their subterranean infrastructure is built around the tunnels ... This is why there haven’t been many tunnel systems built ... It is difficult and expensive ... If one remembers ... the subterranean infrastructure beneath 5th street in Minneapolis was a big stumbling block for he Blue Line ... The Blue was fought every step of the way ... Suburbanites didn’t like it ... They didn’t like it because it was taking money from suburban roads ... The bus people in the core cities didn’t like it ... They felt it was taking money from buses ... If it weren’t for Jesse Ventura’s heroic smack down on the legislature of the time ... we wouldn’t have ... any ... light rail here now ... I’m not a supporter of Jesse Ventura ... I did not vote for him ... I did not like his personality ... politics ... or persona ... but I will always be grateful for his stubborn determination to get light rail in ... Then ... when the Blue Line started running ... it was the suburbanites ... those who fought it ... who used it ... They were new users of the Metro Transit system ... That’s a good thing ... even though the people in the city needed it more ... Now we ... in the city ... are getting the Green Line ... which we would not have ... now ... if it weren’t for the existence of the Blue Line ... The Green Line was fought tooth and nail as well ... Every transit project in the country gets the same resistance ... the same negative rhetoric ... the same self-righteous indignation from those who don’t like the way the decisions are made ... I visit transit blogs all of the country ... Denver ... Portland ... Phoenix ... San Diego ... Los Angeles ... wherever ... and the blogs are filled with the same kind of vitriol ... I voted for people who said they supported this project and I will continue to do so and I hope they continue to put as much rail transit in place as they can ... while they can ... wherever they can ... The Twin Cities needs it ... whether or not they think they want it ... and I will ride it wherever it goes ... and many others will to ... The Bard of Franklin Avenue ...

  • mediapolitic says:

    March 24, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I went to multiple public meetings back during the planning stage several years ago and what I recall was that it seemed as if *everyone* wanted the line to avoid Kennilworth and instead path the line to service the Uptown area.  Costs were higher to go through Uptown but there was deep concern that going through Kennilworth could pose multiple problems—all of which we are witnessing now—any one of which could derail the whole project.  But the LRT planning management just seemed hell-bent on not listening. 

    One suggestion was to reduce the number of stops along the way - don’t go as far and cut out one or two mid line stations (which could be built at a later date) - as a form of cost-savings and then bite the bullet and seek the additional funding.  Or extend the Hiawatha line to the west along 494 to Eden Prairie. But these suggestions and warnings were met with stony silence. 

    The bottom line is that LRT is great when it’s done right.  Both the Hiawatha and the Central corridors have been (mostly) done right.  I fail to see how purposely avoiding Uptown in order to go through the Kennilworth hornets’ nest is LRT done right.

    • James Oliver Smith Jr says:

      March 25, 2014 at 5:28 am

      If a four-lane swath is taken out of Hennepin Avenue in Uptown ... leaving one lane ... at most ... of car traffic in both directions ... with no parking ,,, no space for cycles ... and three years of no access due to construction ... the hornet’s nest of Kenilworth would pale in comparison to the thermo-nuclear explosion that would take place in Uptown ... It doesn’t matter what strategy one uses to put light rail in Uptown ... it is going to be disruptive ... expensive ... and controversial ... Taking a row of houses and businesses would make the corridor wider ... but that would result in even more anger ... Putting tunnels under Uptown would have its own logistic nightmares ... Where would the tunnel entries and exits be? ... A deep tunnel under the Lowry tunnel? ... Take out the buisness section around Franklin and Hennepin? ... where would it come out ... At Lake Calhoun? ... taking out the business section on Lake at the edge of Lake Calhoun? ... not to mention all of the subterranean infrastructure that would have to be dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere ... The overall price tag would dwarf what is being spent for the Southwest Corridor ... I would support it ... but I know there would be very little overall support for the price tag ... The only rail transit mode that has a chance of working in Uptown is a streetcar system ... That could eliminate the need for so many buses ... and it would connect steetcars on the Midtown Greenway ... with the transit hub at Target Field ... Overall ... though ... The problem with the notion of “Light Rail Done Right” is that there is no “Right” ... One person’s “Right” is another person’s “Wrong” ... Whatever route is taken ... regardless of the amount of data collected ... whatever analysis is done ... It will ... always ... be wrong for some group of people ... We need rail transit in Uptown ... We need it on the Midtown Greenway ... We need it on Lake ... We need it on Nicollet ... We need it on Central ... We also need it to the jobs in the suburbs ... I disagree with those who declare that Minneapolis does not need the suburbs ... We all need each other ... We do not live in self contained contexts ... We are a metropolitan area and we are all dependent on each other ... all cities ... We all should be supporting rail transit wherever it is being built ... If the Southwest Corridor doesn’t get it now ... the Bottineau Corridor will get the money ... then who knows when the Southwest corridor get a line ... or Uptown ... or anywhere ... for that matter ... I also disagree with those who say that time doesn’t matter ... Time does matter ... The Southwest Corridor is next up in the queue ... I’m supporting it ... because the suburbanites will use it ... and the more suburbanites support rail transit ... the more likely they will support rail transit for Uptown ... Central Nicollet ... Lake ... and other corridors ... Minneapolis cannot do all of this alone ... It needs St Paul ... and all of the suburbs ... The Bard of Franklin Avenue ...

  • Bill Graham says:

    March 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    The Southwest LRT has been studied to death and at great expense going way back to 1983.  There is no mystery about it.  Clearly, it would be an critical part of our regional transit system.  Is it to be tossed out because a few vocal, well-connected individuals in one neighborhood don’t think they like it?  What about the rest of the metropolitan area who think it’s a good idea?  Doesn’t the metropolitan significance or the burgeoning cost of the “mitigations” that some have demanded have any bearing in this discussion?  None of our urban highways or our airport would have been built if left up to neighborhood votes.  Like it or not, we all belong to a metropolitan community of 3 million people, and we all bear some responsibility to help keep it current and functioning.  It’s time for a bit of maturity and perspective so that this project can move ahead and not lose its place in line for federal funding.

    Bill Graham


  • John Clouse says:

    March 24, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    It’s not really NIMBY. It’s why isn’t this being built where people live?
    Get it out of the park and put it on Nicollet, Hennepin or Lyndale Avenues. Put it in the Greenway.
    As for construction woes, if it was good enough for University Ave. it’s good enough for Minneapolis.

  • Matt Flory says:

    March 24, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    A freight rail re-route would not be in my backyard but it would create problems in my neighborhood. Suggesting that I am small minded because they concern me is unfair. 
    At a minimum, a freight rail re-route would require the forced acquisition of residential properties and small businesses, potential local street closures, unclear impacts on the elementary and high schools I would like to send my children to.  It will disrupt the continuity of my neighborhood.

    Certainly the Kenwood neighborhood would be inconvienced while a tunnel was built, and perhaps moving the bike trail is not something they want but the idea that this is an apples-to-apples comparison, much less that Saint Louis Park is unreasonable suggests a Minneapolis-centric bias.

    Small suburbs can have community too.  Rejecting the idea that we should be able to voice concerns is bullying.

    The Southwest Light Rail line will bring opportunity to my city, but not enough to ignore the problems that a freight rail re-route will create.  The tunnels, shallow, deep or in-between are 100 percent mitigation for Minneapolis.

    I have been at public meetings for over three years.  No one has made any serious efforts to answer the concerns of Saint Louis Park residents, much less an attempt to budget for appropriate mitigation.

    Call me NIMBY if you want, but don’t expect me to respect your thin analysis of a complicated issue.

  • David Culver says:

    March 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks, Conrad, for getting us further along than the usual BS about this problem. I’ve said from the beginning that NIMBYism is behind this whole thing because, no matter what solution or solutions were proposed, the response was either “No!” or “Let a committee study it some more,” both idea-killers to be sure.

    But what’s behind the NIMBYism? One could argue, I suppose, that it’s the strong neighborhood, weak city government model that Minneapolis suffers from to this day. In addition, I submit it’s Classism and its cousin, Racism. The folks in Kenilworth and SLP don’t want the LRT because it’ll bring “those kind of people” to their psychologically gated communities. (That’s based on the erroneous fact that only people who can’t afford cars or limousines ride public transit.)  And, of course, “Those kind of people” (like a lot of the psuedo-intellectual arguments from residents) is dog-whistle politics for “minorities.” (Read: Ian Haney López on the Dog Whistle Politics of Race,

    This situation is only going to be resolved when some leader with the political courage greater than a cockroach’s tells the railroad “move it or lose it,” (“It” being their right to do business in Minneapolis) and to open the psychological gates of the Kenilworth and SLP neighborhoods, reminding residents that, at last check, Minneapolis and SLP are democracies, not oligarchies, and that if they want to wear hoods and sheets there are other states that will welcome them with open arms.

    And for those of us living alongside the rest of the line, that can’t happen too soon!

    • Don Willeke says:

      March 25, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      WHAT minorities are you talking about????  Rich Republicans from the suburbs?  And those “minorities” cant get off the train in my neighborhood and i can’t get on because there is no convenient station.  This project was pooly planned from the beginning, without thought as to the area or the consequences of a dumb route.

      • Matt Flory says:

        March 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm

        @David Culver: “Those kind of people” live in Saint Louis Park and I consider them welcome neighbors.  Check out basic demographic info and you will see that I am right.  I am not alone in this regard.  This is a city that embraces the diverse populations that call it home.

        I passionately want Light Rail, as do many of my neighbors who oppose the re-route. I also am aware and excited about the potential development around the three stations which could be within our city boundries.

        I believe that LRT will improve my home values and quality of life whether or not I ride it.  But wanting LRT and accepting a re-route are simply not synonymous, especially when you actually take the time to look at the studies and talk to the people.

        1) I don’t want a re-route that the railroad companies believe is unsafe, particularly when it requires the relocation of the local food shelf, and when the trains which could derail pass by elementary and high schools. 

        2) I don’t want is a re-route which is safe because of the construction of an embankment across the middle of my neighborhood.  It will isolate residents and businesses and prevent the station development from crossing into my neighborhood (north of the tracks).

        3) I don’t want to forcibly push out residents and small businesses when alternate freight routes don’t require the purchase of private property.

        4) I don’t want fewer north-south streets in a neighborhood which already suffers from too few options for traffic when school buses are not dropping kids at the high school.  And I don’t want the delays of much longer trains effectively blocking the intersections I use in day-to-day travel.  It may be a nuisance, but it is unnecessary when colocation could accomplish the same thing without street closures in Kenwood.

        5) I don’t want people to roll their eyes when I ask what impact these trains could have on the education my kids get in school. There are not convincing answers when it comes to sound and vibration, much less safety.

        But more than anything, I want people who don’t live in Saint Louis Park to discontinue to presume that I am ignorant, uneducated, apolitical, racist or just “not as bright as them”.  I would like people to stop judging my neighbors (even those who are more extreme and vehement in their opposition, even those that think I am so moderate I must be a turncoat).

        Who are the people of Saint Louis Park to stand up for their neighborhood?  They are stakeholders in the process.

        Yes we should work in partnership with the other four cities on the line, but suggesting we “get out of the way” is disrespectful.  I may not be the best or the brightest my city has to offer, but I have quite a few neighbors who deserve better than your self-indulgent remarks.

    • Reino Paaso says:

      March 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      May we assume then that you would be OK with leaving the railroad out of the equation and just running the LRT through St Louis Park instead of Kenilworth?

    • JS says:

      March 25, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      ummm David, SLP is not and never has been opposed to light rail. SLP is perfectly happy for light rail to be built along side freight in the freight corridor that is already there, running East and West along Hwy 7.

    • WE WANT A SUBWAY! says:

      March 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      Nice try Mr. Culver, nice try. The classism and racism that and others have already mentioned is due to the current route that completely avoids the city and minorities and working class people, and the burb-centric Met Council and Hennepin County people who rammed that terrible route through against loud opposition from lower class and minorities as well as white folks who don’t like developers and rich burbs people like you running all the transportation decisions.. The Kennilworth route is the problem that prevents city residents from using the train, and that is why we need a new route that actually goes through dense parts of the city, as well as why it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Bottineau Line got moved up ahead of the SW line. Nice try at obfuscation though guy. Back to the drawing board is where the SW line is going, as it should. You guys almost rammed it through, but it ain’t gonna happen anymore now that the worm has turned and almost no one supports that current line except the developers and the people who want to hang their hat on the (bad) job being done.

      • James Oliver Smith Jr says:

        March 26, 2014 at 9:01 am

        My son graduated from St Louis Park High School ... I can attest to the diversity within St Louis Park ... significantly more than in most suburbs ... I am a resident of Minneapolis and totally dependent on Metro Transit modes of transport ... I support the Southwest Corridor extension to the Green Line ... Although I ... personally ... would like to have Hennepin Avenue ... Lake Street ... Midtown Greenway ... Nicollet Avenue ... Central Avenue ... steetcars ... first ... I also understand that workers in Minneapolis need access to the 250,000 jobs in the Southwest metro area ... The Southwest Corridor will provide that ... In addition to providing access to workers in the Southwest metro area to the 160,000 jobs in downtown Minneapolis ... downtown St Paul ... at the University of Minneosta ... and on University Avenue ... That is a benefit to all Mineapolitans ... and all residents in the Twin Cities ... and all residents of the State of Minnesota ... The Blue Line was fought viciously by the suburbanites ... yet ... when it was built ... it was used ... primarily by suburbanites ... Now the suburbs are elbowing each other to get the next line ... I see this as a good turn in perspective within the metropolitan area ... Everyone ... including the suburbs ... now understands the value .. importance ... and need ... for rail transit to integrate the socio-economic health of the entire metropolitan area ... I have never seen this much excitement for public transit since I arrived in the Twin Cities in 1982 ... I am delighted to see this much interest in rail transit ... This means that it will be easier to get the rail transit we need in Minneapolis ... If it weren’t for the Blue Line success with suburbanites ... we would not have the Green Line starting on June 14 of this year ... The extension to the Green Line into the Southwest corridor will mean more support for streetcars on the high density corridors of Minneapolis and St Paul ... I look forward to eargerly anticipating the opening of the Southwest Corridor extension to the Green Line in 2018 ... I am very much lucking forward to the synergy that will take place across the metropolitan area as a result of all of the modes of transit that Metro Transit is working on ... The Bard of Franklin Avenue ...

  • Travis says:

    April 7, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    I find this interesting, coming from those who often opposed the Big Stone II power plant expansion on the west edge of MN with SD border despite the fact that the great majority of those of us in the area WANTED it built, yes, IN OUR BACK YARDS!!!