Southwest light rail timeline revised

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July 8, 2014
By: Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas
An tentative agreement between Minneapolis and Met Council leaders on the project triggered revisions to the already tight timeline for approval

With the announcement of a tentative agreement between Metropolitan Council and Minneapolis on Southwest Light Rail Transit comes a new timeline for approval of the now $1.65-billion project.

Hennepin County and all five cities along the 15.8-mile route were to vote the project up or down by July 14 in a process known as municipal consent. Any entity that didn’t take a municipal consent vote would be counted as a “yes.”

That timeline holds for the four other cities on the route, but now Minneapolis and Hennepin County will have roughly an additional month-and-a-half to review and vote on the changes to Minneapolis’ portion of the project.

Hennepin County Board Member Peter McLaughlin said the new timeline keeps the transit project on schedule for potential inclusion in the 2016 federal budget. That’s important because federal funds are expected to cover roughly half of all project costs.

Here’s what’s happening today:

— 9:30 a.m.: The Minneapolis City Council Transportation and Public Works Committee discussed the agreement details made public for the first time earlier that morning.

— 1:30 p.m.: The Hennepin County Board convenes for a special meeting that includes a scheduled municipal consent vote on the design and scope of all the Southwest light rail project except for the Minneapolis components. It is expected to vote to approve.

— 7 p.m.: Minneapolis residents are invited to a public meeting at Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Ave. S., to review details of the new light rail plan. The meeting will be streamed live online at www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79.

Tomorrow:

 — 10 a.m.: The Southwest Corridor Management Committee, consisting of local government and agency representatives, convenes at Beth El Synagogue (5224 W. 26th St., St. Louis Park) to review and discuss plan revisions.

— 4 p.m.: Met Council meets at its headquarters (390 N. Robert St., St. Paul) to review plans and set the date of a joint public hearing with the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority on the changes to the Minneapolis segment for Aug. 13.

Future dates:

— July 10 (Thursday): Met Council releases revised plans for the Minneapolis segment of the Southwest Light Rail Transit project, opening a 45-day window for Minneapolis and Hennepin County to review the plans and take a vote on municipal consent.

— Aug. 13: Met Council and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority hold a joint public hearing on plans for the Minneapolis portion of the light rail route.

— Aug. 19: Hennepin County Board plans a special meeting to vote on municipal consent for the Minneapolis portion only.

— Aug. 19: Minneapolis holds a public hearing on muncipal consent.

— Aug. 29: Minneapolis City Council votes on municipal consent.

Of the other cities required to take action on municipal consent, Hopkins and Minnetonka have already voted “yes.” St. Louis Park had scheduled a vote for July 7, but delayed taking action after news broke of a pending deal between Minneapolis and Met Council.

The project still faces the threat of delay by legal action. A group calling itself the Lakes and Parks Alliance informed Met Council through its attorneys that holding a municipal consent vote before a preliminary analysis of two tunnels’ environmental impact is completed violates state law.