Condo residents disappointed, but resigning themselves to SWLRT agreement

Categories: Transportation

swlrt.jpg
Flickr via Mulad

While the mayor's office and Metro Council may have reached a compromise on the Southwest Light Rail Transit project earlier this week, there certainly hasn't been universal acclaim for the agreement. People have complained about the route for countless reasons -- noise, vibrations, foliage, you name it.

But among the loudest voices for a different route have been condominium associations, especially the ones located right along the proposed line. Their case wasn't helped after the Tuesday compromise, as the mayor's office announced that the proposed tunnel south of the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles -- a tunnel that the condominium associations have been so worried about -- will still be going in.

See also:
Southwest LRT takes step forward with Minneapolis, Met Council agreement

One group, the Calhoun Isles Condominium Association, is concerned that the tunnel is set to run only a few feet away from their facilities, close enough that there are concerns about the structural safety of the condos and their parking ramp. The group is also concerned that only about 15 percent of the engineering work has actually been completed on the area where the tunnel will go near the building, meaning there are plenty of unknowns.

The latest agreement hasn't changed those concerns. And that's left some members of the Calhoun Isles association worried.

"I'm very disappointed, and I'm very disenchanted," said Nancy Green, who represents the association with the council. "There's too many pressures coming from unions. Coming from the downtown council. Pressure from the outside. I would rather they sit back and taken another look at the preferred route."

The tough part, Green says, is that with an agreement in place, the project's so far down the road that she doesn't see a way for anything to change with the tunnel. So even with enough assurances in place, "I probably won't be comfortable until it's finished," Green says.

The Met Council has maintained that it will keep working with the associations, even into the summer, to make sure that the condos aren't in danger. And the council and mayor's office say that while they considered other options, it ultimately just wasn't feasible from an engineering perspective to get rid of the south tunnel.

Meredith Vadis, a spokesperson for the council, said that the actual surface area of the Kennilworth Corridor simply can't handle a light rail line on it, along with its already extensive recreation trails, so in order for the plan to work, the shallow tunnel is still needed.

"It is simply too narrow, so it necessitates a tunnel for the LRT," Vadis wrote.

The decision for a shallow tunnel was ultimately brought on by the fact that the freight trails through the Kenilworth Corridor were originally intended to be temporary, with light rail eventually replacing freight. But votes over the years have made that option disappear.

That plan -- with light rail replacing freight -- was the one originally endorsed by the mayor's office, says Peter Wagenius, the mayor's policy director. Wagenius says that once that plan changed, the city was left with limited options, which has meant sacrifice for many, including the condo associations.

"We understood where they were coming from, and we were very skeptical of the shallow tunnels to start with," said Wagenius. "But were we able to provide them reassurances? Probably not."

While they're disappointed, the associations knew this was a possible reality. In a joint letter from the Calhoun Isles Condominium Association and the Cedar Lake Shores Townhome Association from all the way back in January, the associations said that if they couldn't get the route changed or get the tunnel lowered, the proposed shallow tunnel "provides the best alternative for mitigating our serious concerns regarding sight, sound, safety and vibration issues related to the proposed SWLRT."

As it turns out, that's exactly what happened.


Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter @robbiefeinberg.





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15 comments
Kitty Fernandes
Kitty Fernandes

Nate Johnson stop lying! I ride the lrt daily, it is almost always standing room only. Even in off peak hours!

Mike Boe
Mike Boe

I think it would do the Met Council good to do some public education around the differences between light rail and street cars.....all the folks who question why the light rail doesn't go thru uptown need to understand that it would make a trip from EP a lot longer because it would have to stop more frequently. What's sad is that the University line ended up closer to a streetcar than it should have given the stations ever 1/4 of a mile....but that was due to the 'wisdom' of public opinion. Now let's get this line built, move on to the Bottineau line and start building some streetcars to increase the transportation web covering the metro.

Keith Morris
Keith Morris

It was far more than just condo residents against SWLRT: I live in Loring Park and am opposed to spending $1.7 billion for LRT stations where no one lives nearby to use them out in Eden Prairie where you only have a handful of places that are walkable from the stations anyway. There was a good showing of opposing residents from various parts of the city, especially North, more so than vocal residents near the lakes, but why is the media ignoring this and framing the disagreements and opponents in such a narrow way as though only some residents next to the path don't want it? Why aren't they mentioning the fact that SWLRT simply doesn't have the ridership numbers to justify its price tag? We're paying 2x as much as the Green Line to maybe move an equal amount of people? Why aren't they raising that point? There are neighborhoods that need quality transit today and have the residents to support it, but apparently such dense urban neighborhoods (like Loring Park) in Mpls and StP are not as high a priority for quality mass transit as a few suburbanites who don't want to sit in traffic and deal with the choice they made to live out in bumfuck nowhere, Carless people like myself will have to also foot the bill for more "free" park & rides in the burbs and still pay the same fare as people who use them and already have cars because that's the only way to get around the burbs even with LRT.

Christian Jensen
Christian Jensen

Looking forward to SWLRT. The Twin Cities once had a magnificent rail transit system, and will again, though it's too bad we have to rebuild what we already had, a few decades ago.

Sco Kel
Sco Kel

People have complained about the noise, vibration, blah, blah blah,...since the beginning of trains. You should have done some research before spending billions of dollars on old tech. Nice job minneapolis

Nate Johnson
Nate Johnson

Noise isn't the problem, they need to connect it through all the surrounding areas for it to work. Every time I see that train go by there is between 5-10 people on it.

Yankee Doodle Pablo
Yankee Doodle Pablo

The only difference between the current Light Rail vs. the South West line? The trains will be colliding with more SUV's than Prius'.

Stephen Cottingham
Stephen Cottingham

This should have gone through uptown. More people there use mass transit than through slp. Bye bye beautiful Keniworth trail. Some day you will be as great as you are now.

Washington County Watchdog
Washington County Watchdog

Would you like your light rail to cost $1.7 billion or $1.7 billion? no real cost savings and residents are still getting railroaded. Thanks Met Council?

Eduardo Gallegos Parra
Eduardo Gallegos Parra

That condo building is built like a tank, like all grain silos were built. It's probably the safest condo building in Minnesota due to it's design. Lotsa hot air from these residents.

barbertj23
barbertj23

Oh no, they want to ad public transportation by our 4k a month condos! That will let all the riff raff from the city near our privileged people who are clearly more important!

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