Construction begins for $2B Southwest light rail line
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Construction is getting underway for the $2 billion Southwest light rail line that will connect downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie.
Steel rails were delivered near a future station along the route in St. Louis Park on Monday, signaling the start of the project’s construction process, the Star Tribune reported. The Metropolitan Council’s 14.5-mile (23-kilometer) line will include 16 new stations and connect to other lines.
The service will also link Hopkins and Minnetonka, and pass in close proximity to Edina. It’s expected to begin operating in 2023.
The Southwest light rail project’s tree and plant removal has been met with protests from Minneapolis residents.
A group replanted dozens of native wildflowers from the Kenilworth corridor earlier this month.
Minneapolis resident Angela Erdrich said the plants slated for removal by the Southwest project were replanted in safe areas.
“The prairie habitat is very important for bees and birds,” Erdrich said. “This is a valuable habitat.”
A petition was also sent to Gov. Tim Walz to request a delay in plans to cut down more than 1,000 trees along the corridor until the project’s $929 million in federal funding is secured.
The request follows a letter sent to the council’s chair, Nora Slawik, and other state and local officials. The letter said if federal funding falls through, the “elimination of this unique, urban forest preserve and passageway would be a reckless and irreversible mistake.”
Slawik responded that delaying construction any further could increase project costs and push out the service’s opening date.
The council is waiting for an invitation to apply for a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, which could come by this summer, said the council’s spokeswoman Kate Brickman.
“We’re making progress in terms of construction, so that’s good, that will help (with the FTA),” Brickman said.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com