Crash wall requires mitigation

The wall was added to the Southwest Light Rail Transit project in August

The Metropolitan Council agreed with BNSF to add a 10-foot-high, 3-foot-thick wall along a roughly mile-long stretch of the future Southwest Light Rail Transit corridor. Image courtesy Met Council

Steps must be taken to mitigate the negative effect a mile-long crash wall would have on a potentially historic Minneapolis railroad corridor, according to a Federal Transit Administration report.

The Metropolitan Council added the 10-foot-high barrier to its Southwest Light Rail Transit project late this summer. Met Council’s plan to extend its METRO Green Line 14.5 miles to Eden Prairie calls for light rail trains to exit Downtown Minneapolis along the Wayzata Subdivision, and the rail corridor’s owner, BNSF Railway, demanded a crash wall in exchange for its use.

The thick, concrete wall will run from roughly the Interstate 394 bridge, near the future Bryn Mawr Station, to just north of the Interstate 94 bridge, separating parallel freight and light rail tracks. Met Council had previously planned for some corridor protection in that area but agreed with BNSF to connect and extend several shorter segments of wall.

Met Council’s shared-use agreement with BNSF also calls for a new “tail track” where Northstar Commuter Rail vehicles can be stored between trips Big Lake. Tail track construction will widen the corridor and remove some walls and embankments considered part of the potentially historic railroad corridor, the second of two “adverse effects” requiring mitigation under the terms of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The Wayzata Subdivision is a small segment of the much longer St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad/ Great Northern Railway Historic District, which extends all the way to the North Dakota border. The Minnesota Department of Transportation had previously determined that the district is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The FTA is requiring MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit and the SWLRT project office to develop the mitigation plan in consultation with the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office, the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Hennepin County. There will also be opportunities for public input on the wall, including its design.

In a Nov. 7 letter to Met Council, the FTA set a 45-day deadline for completion of a draft mitigation plan.

A community open house on the crash wall is scheduled for 5 p.m.–7 p.m. Nov. 15 at Bryn Mawr Community School, 252 Upton Ave. S. Met Council staff plans to share and take comments on design options for the wall.

The agency also plans pop-up events that week on the Kenilworth Trail to gather comments from bicyclists and pedestrians. While the wall will be 10 feet high on the freight rail side, it will appear just 4–8 feet tall on the light rail side, the same view trail users will have.

The taller side faces the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. In a resolution passed in October, the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association put in writing concerns that the wall would create a new physical barrier between the neighborhood and the city and that it could reflect sounds from passing freight traffic toward nearby homes.

Met Council plans to begin construction on the $1.9-billion SWLRT project next year. Passenger service is expected to begin in 2022.