Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board

Resolution
2013-282

Resolution Stating the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s Position on Project Design Alternatives Recently Developed in the Preliminary Engineering Phase of Southwest Light Rail Transitway Planning

Information

Department:Strategic PlanningSponsors:
Category:Policy

Item Discussion

Whereas, The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) was created by the Minnesota Legislature in April 1883 and has the authority to manage and operate park lands;

 

Whereas, A prominent asset of the region owned, operated and maintained by the MPRB is the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park, which experienced over 5.8 million park visits in 2012;

 

Whereas, The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park includes Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, and the Kenilworth Channel, which are adjacent to and/or intersect with the Kenilworth Corridor proposed as the alignment for the Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SWLRT);

 

Whereas, The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes is designated under federal law a National Scenic Byway and is a portion of the Minneapolis Grand Rounds deemed eligible by the U.S. Department of the Interior under the Historic Preservation Act for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places;

 

Whereas, The MPRB has collaborated for over two decades with Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, City of Minneapolis and the general public in the design, construction, and maintenance of the Kenilworth Regional Trail, which coexists in a naturalized and peaceful setting with freight rail in the Kenilworth Corridor;

 

Whereas, The Kenilworth Regional Trail generated over 550,000 user visits in 2012 made up of commuter and recreational bikers, skaters, runners, and walkers;

 

Whereas, The MPRB has also collaborated for over two decades with Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, City of Minneapolis and the general public in the design, construction, and maintenance of the Cedar Lake Regional Trail, which connects to the Kenilworth Regional Trail;

 

Whereas, The Cedar Lake Regional Trail generated over 850,000 user visits in 2012;

 

Whereas, These two trail corridors provide a park experience and trail connectivity of immense value to the region;

 

Whereas, Through 2012, the MPRB convened a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to study issues associated with adding light rail to the Kenilworth Corridor and develop responses to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project;

 

Whereas, Recommendations of the CAC where approved by the Board of Commissioners on December 5, 2012 and submitted to the Hennepin County;

 

Whereas, Comments submitted by the MPRB include opposition to co-locating freight rail and light rail within the Kenilworth Corridor and as such, support for relocating freight rail out of the corridor as part of the SWLRT project;

 

Whereas, In the past several months, the Metropolitan Council has proposed new design alternatives for SWLRT that would keep freight rail in the corridor and place light rail in either a shallow or deep tunnel under the trail system;

 

Whereas, The shallow tunnel option proposes that light rail would return to grade in order to cross the Kenilworth Channel, a bucolic waterway connecting Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles that is immensely popular for recreational canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing;

 

Whereas, The at-grade crossing of the Kenilworth Channel creates a co-location scenario of the SWLRT with freight rail within the Kenilworth Corridor;

 

Whereas, The shallow tunnel option would be constructed by open trenching, essentially removing all existing vegetation within the current trail corridor;

 

Whereas, MPRB, SWLRT project office and City of Minneapolis staff have recently had significant conversations about the shallow tunnel option and specifically about the crossing of the Kenilworth Channel and vegetation removal;

 

Whereas, The shallow tunnel option would construct a significant amount of infrastructure directly adjacent to and over the Kenilworth Channel including concrete portals, safety fencing or walls and widened bridge decks as necessary to bring the light rail back to grade and over the Channel;

 

Whereas, After deliberating on the SWLRT options, the MPRB believes the shallow tunnel option as currently proposed will permanently damage the recreational, cultural, and aesthetic experience of MPRB parklands and assets at a particularly fragile and critical location that would be overwhelmed by the proposed co-location of light rail and freight rail infrastructure;

 

Whereas, The Board believes that short of dropping the light rail into a tunnel under the Kenilworth Channel, the mitigation measures that have been discussed by staff to bring the light rail to grade and over the channel will, themselves, have damaging impacts to MPRB parklands, assets and the surrounding landscape;

 

Whereas, Section 4(f)(1) of the Federal Transportation Act requires a finding of no feasible or prudent alternatives to the use of parks and historic sites before the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) can approve the use of such property for transportation purposes and the attendant expenditure of federal transportation funds;

 

Whereas, Section 4(f)(2) of the Federal Transportation Act imposes a duty on the Secretary to utilize all possible planning at the earliest stages to minimize harms to parks and historic sites before the Secretary can approve a route;

 

Whereas, The Metropolitan Council is in the process of determining final locations;

 

Whereas, The current Kenilworth Corridor SWLRT alternatives are a recent occurrence and the impacts of which have not been fully evaluated in an Environmental Impact Statement;

 

Whereas, 23 CFR 771.35 of the Code of Federal Regulations require that any use of the lands from Section 4(f) property shall be evaluated early in the development of action when alternatives to the proposed action are under study;

 

Whereas, In 1997, the Minnesota Legislature enacted Minnesota Statutes §383B.81, the Hennepin County Environmental Response Fund, to help in part alleviate the problem created by the construction of Hiawatha Avenue/Highway 55 which severed existing east-west rail traffic for Twin City Western Railroad and necessitated the use of existing Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority tracks in the Kenilworth Corridor;

 

Whereas, Minn. Stat. §383B.81, subdivision 6, provided for the cleanup of the Golden Site property in St. Louis Park, then an EPA Superfund site;

 

Whereas, At the time of legislative funding, Hennepin County and local affected units of government understood that the cleanup of the Golden Site would be used to facilitate an alternative route for the Twin City Western Railroad northerly through St. Louis Park to accommodate future light rail through the Kenilworth Corridor; and

 

Whereas, Hennepin County kept its commitment to St. Louis Park to clean up the Golden Site and for nearly two decades, it has been contemplated that freight traffic would be relocated out of the Kenilworth Corridor in conjunction with SWLRT construction;

RESOLVED, That the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board of Commissioners approve this resolution stating its position on project design alternatives recently developed in the preliminary engineering phase of Southwest Light Rail Transitway planning;

 

RESOLVED, That the Board states its position against co-location of LRT and Freight and for a preferred alternative, along with mitigation measures stated in MPRB’s DEIS comments, as the relocation of freight traffic out of the Kenilworth Corridor to a corridor in St. Louis Park as originally contemplated when the Legislature and Hennepin County created the Hennepin County Environmental Response Fund;

 

RESOLVED, The Board would also support the current option described as the “deep tunnel” option that would keep SWLRT deep underground from the West Lake Station to roughly the Penn Station;

 

RESOLVED, That the Board opposes the option described as the “shallow tunnel” option;

 

RESOLVED, That the Board direct its attorneys and staff to use all options under the 4(f) provisions in the Federal Transportation Act to raise its objections and oppose SWLRT options except as described in this Resolution and exercise all rights the MPRB has under Federal laws to prevent a project of that nature from proceeding;

 

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of the Board transmit a copy of this resolution to the Metropolitan Council, Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Legislators, Hennepin County Commissioners, the Minneapolis Mayor and City Council and other officials with interests in the SWLRT; and

 

RESOLVED, That the President of the Board and Secretary to the Board are authorized to take all necessary administrative actions to implement this resolution.

 

Body

BACKGROUND

 

The resolution, if approved, will represent the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s position on the current Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SWLRT) alternatives. The Board of Commissioners is asked to consider this resolution on August 21, 2013 to allow for it to be submitted to the Metropolitan Council prior the expected narrowing of the potential alternatives for the Municipal Consent process.

 

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Staff recommends approval of the resolution stating its position on project design alternatives recently developed in the preliminary engineering phase of Southwest Light Rail Transitway planning.

 

This action is supported by the following vision and goal statements in the MPRB 2007-2020 Comprehensive Plan.

 

Vision Theme 3:              Dynamic parks that shape city character and meet diverse community needs.

 

Goal:              Park facility renewal and development respects history and focuses on sustainability, accessibility, flexibility, and beauty.

 

Meeting History

Aug 21, 2013 5:00 PM  Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Regular Meeting

Approved as Amended

RESULT:ADOPTED [6 TO 1]
MOVER:Scott Vreeland, Commissioner District 3
SECONDER:Anita Tabb, Commissioner District 4
AYES:John Erwin, Liz Wielinski, Carol A. Kummer, Anita Tabb, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young
NAYS:Bob Fine
ABSTAIN:Brad Bourn
ABSENT:Jon Olson
Aug 21, 2013 5:00 PM  Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Regular Meeting

Amended As Follows:

RESOLVED, That, if it is determined that freight relocation cannot feasibly occur, The Board would also support the current option described as the “deep tunnel” option that would keep SWLRT deep underground from the West Lake Station to roughly the Penn Station;

RESOLVED, That the Board opposes the option described as the “shallow tunnel” option if that option includes bringing light rail to grade and over the Kenilworth Channel;

RESOLVED, That the Board would only consider the “shallow tunnel” option if all technical questions posed by the MPRB are satisfactorily resolved, if the LRT remains in a tunnel under the Kenilworth Channel, if mitigation measures to address the MPRB’s DEIS comments are accepted, and if a substantial re-vegetation/landscaping plan is created for the corridor;

RESULT:AMENDMENT ADOPTED [7 TO 1]
MOVER:Anita Tabb, Commissioner District 4
SECONDER:Scott Vreeland, Commissioner District 3
AYES:John Erwin, Liz Wielinski, Carol A. Kummer, Jon Olson, Anita Tabb, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young
NAYS:Bob Fine
ABSTAIN:Brad Bourn
Aug 21, 2013 5:20 PM  Planning Committee Committee Meeting

Approved on a Roll Call Vote

RESULT:ADOPTED [3 TO 0]
AYES:Anita Tabb, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young
ABSTAIN:Bob Fine
ABSENT:Jon Olson