Kenilworth or Lyndale Avenue? Southwest rail study delayed

A study to find alignment options for possible future Southwestern metro rail lines has been delayed a few months past its original March 2003 deadline.

The Hennepin County Rail Authority is conducting the Southwest Corridor Rail Transit study, which began last spring.

The Southwest Corridor Rail Transit study is examining two transit modes — light-rail and a Diesel Multiple Unit, a diesel-powered vehicle that runs on train tracks. The study is also evaluating two Southwest-downtown routes: the Kenilworth corridor between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, and one via the Midtown Greenway cutting north to Downtown on Lyndale Avenue.

Study manager Katie Walker told Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association members at their February meeting that the study’s completion deadline was extended so the rail authority could do more outreach. "We’re concerned if we try to hurry and wrap this up, we may be missing people," she said.

Although no neighborhood groups have an official stance on a preferred mode or route, the Midtown Greenway Coalition opposes the Greenway option and is lobbying for a vintage rail trolley to serve as the Greenway’s transit mode. Coalition director Tim Springer said hooking up the Greenway with a regional rail system would only be beneficial if it spanned the Greenway’s entire length, not just half, as the proposed Lyndale route option recommends.

CIDNA residents said they simply want more detailed information from the county before they can make an educated recommendation. Residents’ questions focused on the social and environmental impacts of the route options and transportation modes. However, the county response was limited because the feasibility study is not finished.

Walker said the next community input stage would allow more in-depth focus on noise and pollution control, possible transit stations and route specifics.

CIDNA members will discuss a possible position on the issue at their March meeting and will contact the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association to discuss the options and preferences. Walker said the earliest any rail transit project would start is in 2010.