Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board

Resolution
2015-139
Amendment Defeated
Mar 4, 2015 5:00 PM

Resolution Determining that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Will Not Pursue Tunnel Crossing Options for the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) Project; Approving a Legally Binding Memorandum of Understanding with the Metropolitan Council that 1) Establishes a Process that Recognizes Parks and Park Resources in the Transit Project Development Process, 2) Outlines a Process for Collaboration Between the Southwest Project Office and MPRB on Design of Bridge Crossings at the Kenilworth Channel, and 3) Results in an Agreement Between the Metropolitan Council and the MPRB to Facilitate Approval and Construction of the SWLRT Project; and Authorizing the Superintendent to Initiate Agreements with Metropolitan Council to Reimburse the MPRB for Costs Related to Its Work on the SWLRT Project and the Blue Line Light Rail Transit Extension (Bottineau) Project
;

Information

Department:Planning ServicesSponsors:
Category:PolicyProjects:No Project

Item Discussion

Whereas, The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is the steward of the Minneapolis park system;

Whereas, The Metropolitan Council’s Southwest Project Office (“SPO”) has proposed a bridge crossing of the Kenilworth Channel as part of its Southwest Light Rail Transit project;

Whereas, The Kenilworth Channel is a 100-year old connection between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles and lies within Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park and provides a recreational and scenic passage for park visitors between these lakes in all seasons;

Whereas, The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park receives over 5 million visits per year and is one of the parks that is linked by over 50 miles of parkway and trails to create the Grand Rounds Historic District which is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places;

Whereas, The MPRB has continually indicated its support of the transit improvements offered by SWLRT;

Whereas, The MPRB retained a consultant to study the design, impact and cost of tunnel alternatives to crossing the Kenilworth Channel;

Whereas, The SPO soon collaborated with the MPRB and the consultant to provide an in depth analysis of tunnel options which focused on impacts related to the visual quality and noise impacts resulting from an LRT crossing of the channel on a bridge;

Whereas, The consultant’s work included an estimate of costs and a projection of construction schedule for the tunnel options, which were confirmed by the SPO;

Whereas, The cost of implementing one of the tunnel options was determined to be as much as $75 million to $90 million in current dollars;

Whereas, The SPO has indicated pursuit of a tunnel option would result in the need for review of the already approved Municipal Consent process in Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis and could well effect the President Obama’s recommendation of funding SWLRT for the 2016 federal budget which would require additional time and result in a delay in the start of construction that would add as much as $40 million to $50 million to the overall project cost resulting in increased costs of $115-140 million for a tunnel;

Whereas, The MPRB and Metropolitan Council recognized the need for a more comprehensive and integrated method of considering impacts of transit projects on parks and park resources and have developed a mutually beneficial approach to early and continuous engagement by the MPRB for current and all future transit projects (including the Blue Line LRT Extension project) that impact upon parks and park resources;

Whereas, The MPRB and Metropolitan Council have defined a process of collaboration on the design of bridge crossings of the Kenilworth Channel that will incorporate mitigation strategies for visual and noise mitigation measures at the channel crossing; and

Whereas, This resolution is supported by the MPRB 2007-2020 Comprehensive Plan which envisions “Dynamic parks that shape city character and meet diverse community needs.”

Resolved, That the Board of Commissioners determines that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will not pursue tunnel crossing options because they would not be prudent based on 1) the time delays for the project approvals due to the Municipal Consent process requirements, 2) the recommendation of the Obama administration to provide funding for the project in the 2016 federal budget, 3) the extraordinary magnitude of costs necessary to construct a tunnel, 4) the disruption that would occur in connection with tunneling, and 5) the potential to mitigate any adverse impacts related to visual quality and noise based on work performed by MPRB consultants and similar efforts by the SPO;

Resolved, That the Board of Commissioners approve a Legally Binding Memorandum of Understanding between the Metropolitan Council and the MPRB that 1) establishes a process that recognizes parks and park resources in the Metropolitan Council’s transit project development process, 2) outlines a process for collaboration between the SPO and MPRB on the design of bridge crossings at the Kenilworth Channel, and 3) results in an agreement between the Metropolitan Council and the MPRB to facilitate approval and construction of the SWLRT project;

Resolved, That the Board of Commissioners the authorize the Superintendent to initiate agreements between the Metropolitan Council and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board that 1) reimburse the MPRB for 50% of the costs of the engineering consultant, up to $250,000, and 100% of staff work related to study the feasibility of tunnel alternatives, 2) reimburse the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for work, up to $250,000,  on crossing impacts at the Kenilworth Channel by the SWLRT project and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for costs related to its on-going involvement in work related to the SWLRT project and 3) reimburses the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for work, up to $250,000, related to the Blue Line LRT Extension (Bottineau) project; 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

 

In November 2014, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) engaged Brierley Associates to investigate the feasibility of tunnel alternatives for the crossing of the Kenilworth Channel by the Southwest light rail transit project (SWLRT).  Brierley was also charged with assessing the impacts on the park and park resources of the bridge crossing defined by the Southwest Project Office (SPO) and any feasible tunnel alternatives.

 

Tunnel feasibility

Two tunnel alternatives were developed by Brierley and each has been demonstrated to be feasible – that the tunnels can be constructed as a matter of sound engineering judgment.

 

Park impacts assessment

Brierley’s work since early January has focused on the assessment of the impacts of three crossing alternatives proposed for the Kenilworth Channel (the SPO-defined bridge option and the two tunnel options defined by Brierley). To the degree possible, the assessment employed methodologies consistent with known and accepted processes and framed objective considerations for impacts to parks, park resources, and historic sites at the channel. Several factors with the potential for impacting the park were considered and are listed here:

 

×          Visual quality

×          Noise and vibration

×          Cultural resources (archeology and historical)

×          Water resources (surface and ground water, species movement)

×          4(f) impacts, which include those changes directly influencing the resource

 

The assessment of impacts included both temporary impacts (those caused by the construction of a channel crossing) and permanent impacts (those resulting from introduction of light rail transit to the park at the channel crossing).  Brierley’s work also framed, based on FHWA processes, several mitigation strategies that should be pursued should the bridge option for LRT crossing be used.

 

Brierley’s work also noted the impacts of noise on channel users with the introduction of an LRT bridge crossing. Using a comparison of background (ambient) noise to the change in noise levels with an LRT bridge crossing demonstrated an impact on channel users who expect a setting of quietude and serenity. The use of a tunnel for the LRT crossing mitigates the noise resulting from LRT vehicles and results in the tunnel options being the least impactful alternative for the channel crossing. As with their visual quality impact assessment, Brierley’s noise impact assessment noted mitigation strategies that should be pursued should the bridge option for LRT crossing be used.

 

Other factors assessed as a part of the Brierley work were determined to be of lesser consequence in the process of comparing options. While in some cases, the tunnel options were determined to be less impactful than the bridge, the impact on the park and park users was less significant when compared to visual quality and noise impacts. In summary, the other factors might be characterized as follows:

 

×          Cultural resources (archeology and historical), to the extent they are present in the channel crossing area or are influenced by a choice between a bridge or tunnel crossing, could be mitigated through standard and recognized processes. Cultural resources were not considered a significant factor in determining a least impactful alternative.

×          Water resources (surface water) were determined to be generally equal in impact, largely because regulatory thresholds for stormwater management and pollutant discharge would be required to be satisfied for each crossing option.

×          Water resources (ground water) were determined to pose negligible differences between the crossing options. Brierley’s investigation determined that both shallow and deep ground water resources were not impaired by the presence of a tunnel and that construction activities and processes would not pose a negative impact on nearby or adjacent water resources.

×          Water resources (species movement) were determined to be relatively equal in impact because the thresholds for impairment for terrestrial and aquatic species movement were not approached in any crossing option.

×          4(f) impacts, which include those changes directly influencing the resource, related most closely to construction impacts involving temporary closure of the channel and permanent impacts related to visual quality and noise (discussed above).

 

Prudence

Findings of feasibility and impacts on the resource become central to the question of prudence. An option that is both feasible and is considered to be least impactful on the resource may not be prudent according to the FHWA’s definition of prudence. An alternative is not prudent if:

 

·          It compromises the project to a degree that it is unreasonable to proceed in light of the project’s stated purpose and need (i.e., the alternative doesn’t address the purpose and need of the project);

·          It results in unacceptable safety or operational problems;

·          After reasonable mitigation, it still causes severe social, economic, or environmental impacts; severe disruption to established communities; severe or disproportionate impacts to minority or low-income populations; or severe impacts to environmental resources protected under other Federal statutes;

·          It results in additional construction, maintenance, or operational costs of extraordinary magnitude;

·          It causes other unique problems or unusual factors; or

·          It involves multiple factors as outlined above that, while individually minor, cumulatively cause unique problems or impacts of extraordinary magnitude.

 

In workshop sessions, SPO and MPRB staff have reviewed and agreed to an estimate of costs for the tunnel alternatives. In estimates prepared by Brierley, methods of defining costs were used that aligned closely with the practices used by the SPO. A base cost of construction was agreed upon for each tunnel alternative and then SPO assembled “built-up” costs that include required FTA contingencies and an escalation for year of expenditure. The resulting costs of the tunnel options as additional capital cost beyond the cost of the bridge crossing are:

 

Cut and cover tunnel              $60M to $75M

Jacked box tunnel              $80M to $95M

 

These estimates do not reflect the costs resulting from additional time that may be required for reviews and approvals under Municipal Consent. The SPO estimated that those costs might be as much as $40M to $50M.

 

SPO and MPRB staff also agreed to the schedules for construction of each option and agreed the tunnel options would require an additional four to five months to construct, but that this additional time did not impact on any critical path elements of the project’s construction.

 

For the Board’s consideration, the additional cost of constructing either tunnel option becomes an important factor of prudence. While the term “extraordinary magnitude” has not been defined, one of the considerations of prudence focuses on costs. The Board, in determining prudence, may consider whether the tunnel options result “in additional construction, maintenance, or operational costs of extraordinary magnitude.”

 

The time required for additional reviews might also be considered in an evaluation of prudence. The SPO has noted that the change in alignment to use a tunnel crossing is significant in relation to its Municipal Consent process and that the change would require a Municipal Consent review by the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The additional time required for this process poses additional costs (as noted above) and poses questions about the project’s viability from a federal funding perspective. The Board, in determining prudence, may consider whether the tunnel options involve multiple factors “that, while individually minor, cumulatively cause unique problems or impacts of extraordinary magnitude.”

 

 

Recommendation

 

The Board has consistently voiced its support for the benefits of SWLRT even as concerns related to impacts to its implementation and operation have been raised. The process orchestrated with Brierley intended to bring a more complete understanding of the feasibility and impacts of a tunnel crossing of the Kenilworth Channel. To that end, the Board directed staff to engage a tunnel engineering expert to analyze the feasibility of a tunnel crossing option and, should a tunnel prove feasible, to assess the impacts of the tunnel relative to the SPO-defined bridge crossing option.

 

The work of Brierley clearly demonstrates that a tunnel crossing is feasible. However, cost and schedule factors are important considerations. A tunnel crossing may cost $75 to $90 million more than a bridge crossing. In addition, pursuit of a tunnel option requires the SPO to redo the Municipal Consent process with Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis, which may require up to 11 months and result in approximately $40 million of additional costs. The combination of added construction costs and costs resulting from a delay in the start of the project suggest either tunnel option is not prudent. In addition, the Brierley work points to mitigation strategies for the bridge option that might be employed for those areas considered to be most impactful on the parks and park resources (visual quality and noise impacts).

 

With an understanding that a tunnel option may not be prudent, staff engaged with representatives of the Metropolitan Council and SPO to come to a resolution that would support a bridge crossing while resolving other concerns raised by the MPRB during its exploration of channel crossing alternatives. A Memorandum of Understanding was drafted that:

 

·          Formulates an approach that more directly and fully recognizes parks and park resources owned by the MPRB in the project development process for transit projects under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Council;

·          Frames a process for the design of bridge crossings of the Kenilworth Channel that requires collaboration between the SPO and MPRB, establishes conceptual starting points that result in a range of bridge design options for consideration by the MPRB Board of Commissioners, and employs mitigation strategies related to visual quality and noise identified in the Brierley work; and

·          Results in an agreement by the MPRB to work with the Metropolitan Council to facilitate approval and construction of the SWLRT project.

 

Discussions also resulted in an agreement by the Metropolitan Council to:

 

·          Reimburse the MPRB for a portion of the costs related to Brierley’s work and for the costs of MPRB staff involvement since the start of Brierley’s work; and

·          Reimburse the MPRB for costs related to on-going involvement in work related to the SWLRT project, the Blue Line LRT Extension project (Bottineau), and any future LRT project.

 

Apart from the technical analyses performed by the MPRB with Brierley, staff engaged in extended discussions related to the ways in which the Metropolitan Council could modify project development processes to more fully recognize impacts of its facilities on parks and park resources. Importantly, attention was directed to ways in which a more robust understanding could be achieved earlier in the project development process and methods of integrating reviews of transit projects by agencies with unique park authorities in the Municipal Consent process. Essentially, the MPRB and Three Rivers Park District become isolated from the official review process because both entities fall outside of the Municipal Consent authority granted to counties, cities, and towns by state statute. For most counties, cities, and towns, impacts on parks and park resources are considered by the county, city, or town with jurisdiction over the park or park resources. The MPRB, because of its more autonomous and legislatively-defined authority, is precluded from the Municipal Consent process.

 

The Metropolitan Council, in concert with MPRB staff, has framed a process that more clearly recognizes parks and park resources early and fully in a project development process. Attachment A (LRT Project Coordination: Park and Recreation Areas) and Attachment B (LRT Project Coordination: Park and Recreation Areas--Flowchart) were developed jointly and will result in a process that benefits MPRB in any future transit project sponsored by the Metropolitan Council that impacts upon parks or park resources under the jurisdiction of MPRB.

 

SPO and MPRB staff have also organized a process for the design of the bridge crossing that will employ mitigation strategies resulting from the investigation of impacts performed by Brierley, particularly for impacts related to visual quality and noise. Several approaches have been outlined in a narrative describing the process and timing of a bridge design process, including a description of conceptual starting points that would result in a range of design concepts being prepared for consideration by the Board. That process has been defined in Attachment C (Kenilworth Channel Crossing Process and Design Considerations for Bridge Concepts) to the Memorandum of Understanding.

 

Staff and legal counsel recommend the Board of Commissioners approve the Memorandum of Understanding between the Metropolitan Council and MPRB, including Attachments A, B, and C.

 

The Metropolitan Council, through a separate agreement (see attached Met Council reimbursement letter), will reimburse the MPRB for 50 percent of the Brierley engineering costs, not exceeding $250,000, and MPRB staff costs incurred during the Park Board’s exploration of additional tunnel; the results of that work will be included in the Council’s environmental documentation and analysis.  Additionally, the Metropolitan Council will enter into agreements with the MPRB for all LRT projects, including SWLRT and Bottineau, to cover up to $250,000 of MPRB costs, over a five year period, associated with each LRT project. 

 

Staff and legal counsel recommend the Board of Commissioners approve the separate financial agreements between the MPRB and the Metropolitan Council.

 

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:              Parks shape an evolving city.

 

              Goal:              Focused land management supports current and future generations.

 

PAST BOARD ACTIONS

 

January 7, 2015              Resolution 2015-107 Approving a Letter Requesting a Meeting to Discuss Legal Jeopardy to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) New Starts Program Created by the Implementation of the Program for the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project in Minneapolis by the FTA and the Metropolitan Council

 

January 7, 2015              Resolution 2014-106 Authorizing an Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with Brierley Associates for Engineering Services Related to the Feasibility and Prudence of Kenilworth Crossing Alternatives in the Amount of $248,275 for a New Contract Total of $493,775

 

November 19, 2014                       Resolution Authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with Brierley Associates for Engineering Services Related to the Feasibility and Prudence of Kenilworth Channel Crossing Alternatives in the Amount Up to $245,500

 

October 1, 2014                              Resolution 2014- 311 Authorizing the Superintendent to hire engineering services for a fee up to $500,000 from the reserve balance to determine the prudence and feasibility of a tunnel under the Kenilworth Channel for the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project

 

September 17, 2014                      Resolution 2014-293 Authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with Stinson Leonard Street, LLP for Legal Services Related to the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project in the amount of $22,000

 

May 21, 2014                                    Resolution 2014-209 Stating the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board determination that, based on Southwest Light Rail Transitway Project Office preliminary finding of feasibility, tunneling LRT under the Kenilworth Channel may be the only Section 4(F) feasible and prudent alternative within the shallow tunnel option regarding Minneapolis parkland impacted by the project, however that determination requires greater analysis

 

February 5, 2014                             Resolution 2014-114 Urging the Southwest Light Rail Transitway Project Office to conduct a detailed engineering feasibility study and cost comparison of tunneling under the Kenilworth Channel as part of the shallow tunnel option

 

August 21, 2013                              Resolution 2013-282 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

 

December 5, 2012                          Resolution 2012-321 Approving a comment letter to Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority for the Southwest Transitway Draft Environmental Impact Statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting History

Mar 4, 2015 5:00 PM  Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Regular Meeting

Approved as Amended (Olson & Erwin amendment) on a roll call vote

RESULT:ADOPTED [6 TO 3]
MOVER:Scott Vreeland, Vice President, Commissioner District 3
SECONDER:Brad Bourn, Commissioner District 6
AYES:Liz Wielinski, Scott Vreeland, Brad Bourn, John Erwin, Steffanie Musich, Jon Olson
NAYS:Meg Forney, Anita Tabb, Annie Young
Mar 4, 2015 5:00 PM  Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Regular Meeting

Amend Resolution 2015-139 as follows,

The caption of Resolution:

Resolution Determining that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Will Not Pursue Tunnel Crossing Options for the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) Project; Approving a Legally Binding Memorandum of Understanding with the Metropolitan Council that...

The resolved clause of Resolution:

Resolved, That the Board of Commissioners approve a Legally Binding Memorandum of Understanding between the Metropolitan Council and the MPRB that...

The Memorandum of Understanding, Now therefore, section 3:

3. The MPRB agrees to work with the Metropolitan Council to facilitate the approval and construction of any LRT project.

RESULT:AMENDMENT ADOPTED [7 TO 0]
MOVER:Jon Olson, Commissioner District 2
SECONDER:John Erwin, Commissioner At Large
AYES:Liz Wielinski, Scott Vreeland, Brad Bourn, John Erwin, Meg Forney, Steffanie Musich, Jon Olson
ABSTAIN:Anita Tabb, Annie Young
Mar 4, 2015 5:00 PM  Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Regular Meeting

That the Board Table resolution 2015-139

Forney Tabb amendment fail on a roll call vote

RESULT:AMENDMENT DEFEATED [3 TO 6]
MOVER:Meg Forney, Commissioner At Large
SECONDER:Anita Tabb, Commissioner District 4
AYES:Meg Forney, Anita Tabb, Annie Young
NAYS:Liz Wielinski, Scott Vreeland, Brad Bourn, John Erwin, Steffanie Musich, Jon Olson