Below is the letter that several groups, including LRT Done Right, have sent to Governor Dayton.
Dear Governor Dayton,
We write this open letter as representatives of grassroots groups that represent residents who live near the proposed SWLRT line in Minneapolis and also many other concerned residents throughout the city and the Metro area. We are collectively asking you to rethink the SWLRT commuter train alignment through Minneapolis.
We commend you for placing the temporary hold on this LRT project to address broken agreements and incomplete studies, related to moving the freight train and ensuring that shallow tunnels do not impact the water in the Kenilworth Greenway. We believe that the problems with this alignment go beyond the potential negative impacts to the environment and our park system. We believe this project does not meet the transit needs of Minneapolis and the region. Our concerns include:
Cost. Since the Kenilworth alignment was chosen four years ago, the price of the project has increased from $1.25 billion to $1.55 billion dollars. With the increased price tag, now is the time to reexamine alternatives to find a better route for Minneapolis and the region. As you know, this area of our state is not just a beloved part of our history; the Chain of Lakes is also one of the most visited areas in Minnesota. People come in from all around the metro, the state, and the country to use and appreciate this precious resource. Nationally prominent cities such as San Francisco or New York City do not devalue their emblematic parks in this way.
Changes in FTA criteria. When the Kenilworth route was selected, the Bush Administration’s Federal New Starts program criteria heavily favored suburban growth over service to cities’ needs. Travel-time savings for suburban commuters were given far more weight than transit access for urban employers and residents. New FTA criteria give proper significance and value to density and urban transportation needs.
Land use. In 2007, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie made it clear that running a train through recreational trails in their communities would be detrimental to their cities’ quality of life and limit development opportunities. Therefore, they would not accept this SWLRT alignment, and $300 million was added to the project to improve the alignment there. In Minneapolis, by contrast, a route was chosen that damages recreational and commuter trails and parkland, skirts transit-dependent communities, and ignores areas of density. Running the train through a greenway limits transit oriented development within Minneapolis, which prevents the region from fully and equitably benefiting from this large, unprecedented investment. It also skews development away from the city core and out into suburbs, stimulating suburban sprawl.
Ridership. Though much has been made of the transit opportunities SWLRT could provide to historically underserved communities, the Met Council’s own analysis shows that fewer than 800 people per day by the year 2030 might use the two stations closest to North Minneapolis. Combined, this is far fewer riders than at any other station along the line. This low ridership reflects the fact that the SWLRT barely reaches the very edge of North Minneapolis. Moreover, the ridership model favored by the Met Council/Project Office assumes that Minneapolitans would ride the train to entertainment venues in the southwest suburbs, while ignoring the fact that southwestern suburban residents work and play in Uptown, where entertainment abounds and parking is at a premium.
Cars off the road. As planned, the SWLRT does not provide a significant reduction in traffic congestion within Minneapolis or on southwest freeways. SWLRT would only replace approximately 8,000 car trips daily according to the DEIS (find it at swlrt.org, table 6.2-4). Assuming that most commuters make a round-trip to work and back, that means that fewer than 4,000 cars would be taken off the road at rush hour by 2030. To put that number in perspective, 132,000 vehicles used I-494 at Hwy 169 every day in 2012. That is almost $387,000 per car off the road.
In light of the new information and developments, we believe a better route for Minneapolis and the region would be selected in an unbiased alternatives analysis study not controlled by vested interests. We also support independent oversight of the remaining process to ensure the credibility of the results.
- We encourage you to show your personal and political resolve to:
- Protect significant natural and historical features
- Safeguard the validity of the environmental protection process
- Guarantee that urban neighborhoods with limited transit and high-density areas are truly served by major projects, and not just tangentially;
- Ensure transit is designed to create livable urban communities not just suburban thoroughfares;
- Preserve and enhance walking and protected biking trails for commuting and recreation, with greenery, essential for urban health now and for future generations.
Like you, we are all supporters of public transit, but it has to be done right. The Hiawatha and Central lines will provide urban development opportunities, connect transit-reliant communities with jobs, reduce congestion and have an overall positive impact on the regional environment. The current SWLRT alignment will provide few such benefits. We strongly believe this is not the right or effective way to spend 1.55 billion dollars of limited taxpayer funds.
Thank you, Gov. Dayton, for your continued leadership on this important decision.
Calhoun Isles Condominium Association,
Board of Directors, Cedar Lake Shores Townhome Association,
Kenilworth Preservation Group (KPG),
LRT Done Right
CC: Minneapolis City Council, Mayor RT Rybak, Metropolitan Council Members, Hennepin County Board Members, Minneapolis Park Board Members, Senator Scott Dibble, Representative Frank Hornstein, Mark Wegner
Sent to: Media