Met Council reveals rail options for Kenilworth Corridor

The question is: Should freight stay or go before light rail arrives in 2018?

Whether it moves or stays, dealing with an existing freight rail line in the Kenilworth Corridor will add an estimated $120 million–$420 million to the cost of the Southwest light rail transit (LRT) project, the Metropolitan Council reported Wednesday.

Those costs come on top of Southwest LRT’s $1.25-billion price tag and will require the council to seek “alternate funding sources,” according to a press release. The public will get its first look at the options tonight at an open house running 4:30 p.m.–7 p.m. at Jones-Harrison Residence, 3700 Cedar Lake Ave.

Planners have come up with eight different options for either relocating freight rail or co-locating light and heavy rail in the narrow Kenilworth Corridor, a pinch-point along the planned 15.8-mile LRT route that would extend the existing Green Line to Eden Prairie. The options include two scenarios that would shift the freight rail route west to St. Louis Park and six scenarios that would keep it in the Kenilworth Corridor alongside the new LRT line.

There is opposition in St. Louis Park to re-routing the freight rail line, where residents have raised safety concerns over additional rail traffic. But the co-location option also has its opponents, including residents of a town home complex on the Kenilworth Corridor who could lose their homes. Many users of the Cedar Lake Trail, a bike and pedestrian path that runs the length of the corridor, also oppose co-location.

According to project planners, the cheapest solution would be to move the Cedar Lake Trail out of the corridor. That scenario would cost just $35 million–$40 million, and there would be no need to acquire and demolish nearby homes.

Keeping both the trail and the freight rail in the corridor while adding light rail would cost an estimated $50 million–$55 million and require the acquisition of 26 residential properties. Elevating the bike and pedestrian trail would cost the same amount and wouldn’t require removal of any residential properties.

Three other co-location options would also avoid residential property acquisition. They include: elevating the new LRT tracks, at a cost of $105 million–$110 million; digging a shallow, cut-and-cover tunnel for the LRT, at a cost of $150 million–$160 million; or the most expensive option, boring a deep tunnel for the LRT, at cost of $320 million–$330 million.

Both the tunnel options would also eliminate a planned 21st Street Station serving the Kenwood Neighborhood.

Planners developed two different options for rerouting freight rail through St. Louis Park, both of which would require construction of a new rail bridge and reconfiguration of some city streets and roads.

The Brunswick West alignment would route freight rail through the current location of the St. Louis Park High School football field and require the full or partial acquisition of 46 properties, including some homes and businesses. It costs an estimated $200 million–$210 million. The Brunswick West alignment saves the football field, affects fewer homes and businesses and would cost $190 million–$200 million.

To understand the full cost of either co-location or relocation, add $85 million–$90 million to each of those eight cost estimates. That’s the base estimate of required “accomodation and common improvements,” according to the Metropolitan Council.

A Metropolitan Council vote on co-location or relocation is expected in August.