More details expected soon on Southwest LRT

The public will get its first look at the draft environmental impact statement for the Southwest Corridor light rail project in a few weeks. The LRT line would run 15 miles between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie through the southwest suburbs. The federal government will release the draft EIS on Oct. 12, which begins the official public comment period for the document.

The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority will host a series of public hearings in November on the environmental impact statement:

• Thursday, November 29, Eden Prairie City Hall, 8080 Mitchell Road – 6 p.m. Formal Public Hearing (preceded by a public open house from 5-6 p.m.)

• Wednesday, November 14, St. Louis Park City Hall, 5005 Minnetonka Boulevard – 6 p.m. Formal Public Hearing (preceded by a public open house from 5-6 p.m.)

• Tuesday, November 13, Hennepin County Government Center, A-2400 – 4:30 p.m. Formal Public Hearing (preceded by a public open house on the Public Service Level, Government Center, from 4-5 p.m.)

The Southwest LRT line was approved about a year ago by the Federal Transit Administration for entry into the federal New Starts Program and into the Preliminary Engineering phase.

The document is expected to provide long-awaited details on some controversial aspects of the project, including whether to reroute St. Louis Park freight rail traffic in the Kenilworth Corridor in Minneapolis to the MN&S freight rail tracks in St. Louis Park. The document will also detail which, if any, properties would be affected by the line, and include proposals for mitigating environmental impacts like noise and vibration along the light rail.

“We’ve been hoping to get it out into the public for a long time so it’s finally coming,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman.

Under federal rules, Hennepin County is prohibited from sharing information about the environmental study that’s part of the draft environmental impact statement until it’s released. Hard copies will be available at the Hennepin County 701 Building, the Southwest LRT Project Office, and local city halls and libraries, and be available online .

Public comment on all of the proposals included in the draft environmental impact statement will be collected from Oct. 12 through Dec. 11. Comments on the DEIS will be accepted via email, at swcorridor@co.hennepin.mn.us, U.S. mail to 701 Fourth Ave. S, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55415 or by formal public testimony at the three public hearings.

Note: Southwest project spokesperson Laura Baenen asked that we update our post with these details:

The DEIS will examine the impacts of both freight rail service re-routing from the Kenilworth Corridor in Minneapolis to the MN&S Spur in St. Louis Park AND co-location of freight rail alongside SWLRT in the Kenilworth Corridor. The DEIS does NOT decide the ultimate location of freight rail. The Metropolitan Council will consider this question during Preliminary Engineering and through development of the FEIS.

In the same paragraph of your story, you discuss that the DEIS will identify specific impacted properties.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to identify properties within the project area that are listed, or eligible for listing, as a historic property in the National Register of Historic Places. Section 106 has not been completed yet and will continue through FEIS development. The Architectural History Investigation identifies several properties recommended for listing in the National Register (by property name, address). Therefore, someone could make the argument that some properties are identified. However, no final decision has been made on the alignment.

Some properties are also identified for noise impacts by name, for example. However, most properties are referenced by the number of properties (units) in the study area using the HC GIS parcel data.

Therefore, this statement is a bit misleading in that it infers the DEIS identifies properties potentially impacted by the project.

The DEIS does discuss potential mitigation, although much of this is in general terms at this stage in the project, and mitigation will be addessed in-depth in the FEIS. The HCRRA BAR to amend the Scoping Summary Report also mentioned mitigation being addressed in the DEIS. Therefore, this statement is valid in the article because it mentions these as “proposals.”

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