Your recent article, “Getting Up to Speed on Southwest Light Rail,” created a distorted picture of the process and events associated with the development of the project.
First, despite media reports to the contrary, there was no “promise” in the 1990s to move freight rail from the Kenilworth Corridor to St. Louis Park. That was the intent of city and county planners at the time, but there never was any analysis done to determine whether and how such a relocation might work, either from an engineering standpoint or from a community relations perspective.
It is also incorrect to describe the shallow tunnel option recommended by the Metropolitan Council as a “Cadillac plan that acquiesced to the railroad.” In fact, the $160 million shallow tunnel proposal was conceived as a cost-saving alternative to the St. Louis Park option, which would have cost an estimated $200 million—not because it requires “upgrades” to existing track, as your article stated, but because it involves construction of an entirely new freight rail route where none exists today. Our company neither proposed nor endorsed that option.
As far as the cost of the Kenilworth shallow tunnel, it is not the freight railroad’s requirements that are driving those costs, but rather the need to accommodate light rail in addition to the existing bike and hiking paths that Minneapolis residents wish to preserve. Freight rail has co-existed with those amenities for more than fifteen years.
Throughout the light rail planning process, our company has affirmed that we would accept any routing plan that enabled us to operate at the same levels of safety and cost efficiency as we do now. Federal law requires us, as common carriers of freight, to put the needs of our Minnesota and South Dakota shippers first as we evaluate various light rail options. It does not allow us to move from our current location if the new route compromises our ability to move our customers’ goods safely and cost-effectively.
President, Twin Cities & Western Railroad