Kenilworth condo owners to Minneapolis: We like the shallow tunnels

The freight rail track is just feet away from townhomes in the Kenilworth Corridor of Minneapolis. (MPR file photo)

Finally in the long-running debate over Southwest light-rail, there’s something that St. Louis Park and at least some Minneapolis residents can agree on.

The people who live in the narrowest pinch point of the Kenilworth Corridor are pleading with Minneapolis city officials to stop pushing for a rerouting of freight traffic. 

Associations representing townhouses and high-rise condos near the bike trail sent an email yesterday to Mayor Betsy Hodges and City Council members after the officials vehemently objected to a plan to bury Southwest LRT trains in shallow tunnels along the corridor.

But the Cedar Lake Shores Townhome Association and Calhoun Isles Condominium Association say the alternative — diverting the freight traffic to St. Louis Park — would represent “the worst possible outcome.” If the freight trains leave, light-rail trains go in at ground level.

The groups are advocating for the shallow tunnels, “not because we think it is an ideal solution, but because it is the only option presented to date as an alternative to the 16-20 hours daily schedule of 220 light rail trains, running every ten minutes in each direction ‘at grade,’ within feet of our homes,” the email said.  

The associations say the uncertainty surrounding the Southwest project has caused some potential home buyers to withdraw their offers.

The email was sent yesterday before Met Council staff unveiled yet another design concept that is also an oxymoron — a “deep shallow tunnel” — intended to appease some critics in Minneapolis.

The condo dwellers represent just one faction of the Kenilworth neighborhood groups, which have differing views on how to resolve the freight-rail impasse that could scuttle the entire $1.55 billion project. The Kenilworth Preservation Group is still calling for a deep-bore tunnel that Metropolitan Council engineers say would cost $330 million. A group called LRT Done Right wants an entirely different light-rail alignment, or moving the freight.

But the groups have reached consensus on one thing, said Stuart Chazin, who heads the Kenilworth Preservation Group.

“What we all want is the whole thing to die,” he said.

UPDATE: I heard from Patty Schmitz of LRT Group, who disputes Chazin’s characterization. “Our group’s position is not that we want the SWLRT to die,” she said.