Work on the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project has continued as planned during the pandemic and major construction activity continues in the Kenilworth corridor in Southwest Minneapolis.
Construction schedules have not been impacted by the pandemic because work was allowed throughout the statewide stay-at-home order, project director Jim Alexander said.
“Things haven’t slowed down at all,” Alexander said.
In Southwest Minneapolis, construction of the half-mile tunnel in the Kenilworth Corridor continues, with a new 16-day closure of Cedar Lake Parkway between Xerxes Avenue and Burnham Road that began July 6. Crews will be installing tunnel sheeting across the parkway road and will then repave the street before returning later this year to excavate the tunnel, in a closure expected to last about five and a half months. An agreement between the Metropolitan Council and the Minneapolis Park Board requires the project to limit its total closure of the parkway to six months. Alexander said project staff and contractors have been adjusting to ensure they can complete all their work under the roadway within that window.
Pedestrians and bikes will continue to have access to the parkway during the closure. The MPRB’s closure of the parkway west of Sunset Boulevard to assist social distancing will remain in place through July.
North of the parkway, crews are continuing to construct bridges over the Cedar-Isles Channel. This month, construction of a new freight rail bridge is expected to conclude and freight lines will be shifted. Once the shift occurs, construction on the new light-rail and pedestrian bridges will begin.
Near the future 21st Street and Bryn Mawr stations, massive piles of dirt, called surcharges, have been gathered, helping compress soft soil for stable building foundations. Construction on the 21st Street station is expected to begin later this summer, while the Bryn Mawr surcharges will remain in place into the fall.
Alexander said SWLRT staff have worked to improve bike and pedestrian detours near the future Bryn Mawr station along the Cedar Lake trail. Right now, people moving through the trail are detoured up Kenwood Parkway to access Downtown while utility work is completed near Linden Yards.
Southwest neighborhoods with the most construction activity have had varied responses to the project.
Mary Pattock, chair of the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association, said while she knew the project would lead to a major loss of trees, seeing the impact on the Kenilworth Corridor has been tough. She said the neigh- borhood group remains concerned about safety during construction and of access for first responders to the area during the closure of Cedar Lake Parkway. The Met Council, she said, listens but doesn’t engage the group in a real dialogue.
“Of all the concerns we’ve had in the past, none of them have been lessened by the realities,” she said.
Allan Campbell, chair of the West Calhoun Neighborhood Council, said many in the neighborhood were complaining about construction noise last month but that activity has quieted down more recently. He said the neighborhood group receives constant updates from project staff, but that occasionally they are surprised by certain activities.
“There’s a lot of coordination and sometimes there are slip-ups and we don’t get warned about things, but I guess that’s an issue with a big project,” he said.