Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

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David Greene
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2013, 12:32 pm

What mishandling? Please be specific because as far as I can see this process has been completely open and transparent. I am usually the one complaining about public process but Southwest has been *far* better than Central as far as that goes. If there's any bad actor here it's the railroad, not the Council.
:lol:
Specifics?

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2013, 12:34 pm

bait and switch isnt being transparent. you seem to just think the city being sold one thing and then being told to accept another is no big deal. you can work with that eh?
There's no bait and switch here. All of the options were public for everyone to see. All the reports are public. There have been many many many public meetings about this project.

If you don't like the decision, that's one thing but one cannot reasonably claim deception.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Viktor Vaughn » October 14th, 2013, 12:57 pm

What mishandling? Please be specific because as far as I can see this process has been completely open and transparent. I am usually the one complaining about public process but Southwest has been *far* better than Central as far as that goes. If there's any bad actor here it's the railroad, not the Council.
:lol:
Specifics?
Anybody care to walk David through the bungeling of the freight issue? As much as I love it when David plays dumb and I get to explain stuff to him that he already knows, I have too much work to do today.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » October 14th, 2013, 1:35 pm

bait and switch isnt being transparent.
There's no bait and switch here.
May not be bait and switch, but there was a "promise" made that no one had ability to promise. The promisers had no understanding if the engineering/safety requirements when they promised. Understanding of the reality came so late in the process that ... well. Here we are.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2013, 2:09 pm

Anybody care to walk David through the bungeling of the freight issue? As much as I love it when David plays dumb and I get to explain stuff to him that he already knows, I have too much work to do today.
Look, we may not like the outcome but I really can't see how the public process was flawed. It was open, there were many reports and presentations and people testified ad nauseum. Multiple freight options were explored. I have some issue with the political influence certain small groups have but the process of study and engineering for the freight portion of this project seems sound to me. Hell, Minneapolis is getting a tunnel out of the deal which no one saw coming. It's the public process that led to that decision so to say that the project has not been transparent and decision-makers haven't responded to public input is ridiculous on its face.

Note that I am distinguishing the public process from the outcome. In a perfect world we'd have a much better outcome. But we live in the world we live in.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2013, 2:14 pm

May not be bait and switch, but there was a "promise" made that no one had ability to promise.
I and pretty much everyone else is very unclear about this. What "promise" was made, exactly? There is no legal requirement for SLP to take freight rail, only documentation that discussions were had and some very broad and general statute language. Minneapolis says it only agreed to Kenilworth if freight was relocated, but a city council resolution is not legally binding. The municipal consent process exists for situations like that and we'll go through that shortly.

I've been tracking this project for nine years, which I know is not as long as some but even though I've missed a lot of the minutia I'm pretty sure I'm better informed on the project than your average Minneapolis resident. I cannot recall ever hearing a "promise" with respect to freight rail. I never heard such a thing in any public meeting I was at and I've been at a lot of 'em.

EDIT: I remember the hearings about the alignment after the Alternatives Analysis. I remember people talking about colocation even then, so it's not like people should be surprised that it was on the table. Yet I've heard repeatedly that the city was blindsided by it. The only reasonable explanation is politics, specifically mayoral politics.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » October 14th, 2013, 3:06 pm

I did hear from Gail Dorfman very early on in the process (she had pretty recently made the transition from SLP Mayor to Commissioner, so this is probably at least 10 years ago) about the agreement that SLP had made to accept the freight relocation in this process. She mentioned that it was an unpopular choice for her, but that she supported it because of the whole "greater common good".

Was it a promise? I don't know, maybe not. But it was part of the understood assumptions that everybody was working from.

Setting aside the politics of the situation and the engineering problems, I still believe that from a pure planning point of view, it makes the most sense to consolidate the freight traffic in one location, in SLP.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby woofner » October 14th, 2013, 3:31 pm

What "promise" was made, exactly?
Katie Walker explicitly stated at several community advisory committee meetings I attended in 2007-08 that it was impossible to colocate freight and LRT in Kenilworth and that the project would not consider it. Not exactly a promise, more like a statement of fact made by the only one who was privy to engineering documents.
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2013, 4:50 pm

I did hear from Gail Dorfman very early on in the process (she had pretty recently made the transition from SLP Mayor to Commissioner, so this is probably at least 10 years ago) about the agreement that SLP had made to accept the freight relocation in this process. She mentioned that it was an unpopular choice for her, but that she supported it because of the whole "greater common good".
I have heard the same, but there was no legally binding agreement. I can see how people might think there was a promise where there was none. I put that squarely on the public officials who should be clear about such things.

But this agreement or whatever it was was made under the assumption that the freight tracks would be largely unchanged. Obviously that's totally different now. The analogue for Minneapolis would be its granting of municipal consent, then having the tunnels removed from the project without any input from the city. That's not going to happen in this case due to state statute but it would be a similar-scale change as what happened with the SLP freight proposal. There were so many massive changes that any agreement became null and void at that point. At least that's how I see it.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2013, 4:53 pm

What "promise" was made, exactly?
Katie Walker explicitly stated at several community advisory committee meetings I attended in 2007-08 that it was impossible to colocate freight and LRT in Kenilworth and that the project would not consider it. Not exactly a promise, more like a statement of fact made by the only one who was privy to engineering documents.
Then that is a huge mistake on Katie's part. She is not an elected official nor is she an engineer. It certainly wasn't a promise because she was and is in no position to make such promises. She should not make such statements without verifying them with someone. It was probably a very unfortunate off-the-cuff remark. I respect Katie a lot for the things she does. I'm sure this has been a big learning experience for her. That doesn't really help those who heard her say that but remember that we are all human.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby woofner » October 14th, 2013, 5:39 pm

*sigh* David, the same thing was coming from project staff and policymakers at the same time. They all were saying colocation was impossible. It was not off-the-cuff. It came up repeatedly over the year I was on the CAC because the SLP folks of course were interested in it. I agree with what you said about Katie, but the only reason I said her name was because she WAS the project at that time (along with Kathy Doty, who said the same thing). County policymakers were also saying it as noted above. Who's left?

Here is my proposal for the official history: it's been Hennepin County's stance all along that colocation in Kenilworth is unfeasible (for the understandable reason that a tunnel is insane, moving the bike trail goes against a major transportation planning goal, and no one wants to inconvenience 26 homeowners who will move in 10 years tops anyway). When the project became the Met Council's responsibility, colocation in Kenilworth became an option. It's not so much that they pulled a switcheroo, it's that the Met Council was willing to consider options that Hennepin County wasn't.
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2013, 6:00 pm

\Here is my proposal for the official history: it's been Hennepin County's stance all along that colocation in Kenilworth is unfeasible (for the understandable reason that a tunnel is insane, moving the bike trail goes against a major transportation planning goal, and no one wants to inconvenience 26 homeowners who will move in 10 years tops anyway). When the project became the Met Council's responsibility, colocation in Kenilworth became an option. It's not so much that they pulled a switcheroo, it's that the Met Council was willing to consider options that Hennepin County wasn't.
That seems like a reasonable interpretation but you're missing one piece: relocation became a much bigger project than anticipated. Hennepin county was working under the assumption that relocation would cost $50MM. Obviously the situation has changed quite a bit since those days. Met Council is working with information Hennepin County never had.

Perhaps it's splitting hairs, but statements about "unfeasible" and "a promise" are two different things. What is at one time unfeasible can become necessary given new information. It's people's unwillingness to consider new information a decade later ithat is causing at least some of the brouhaha. I totally understand that this new information is bad news for some folks but the engineers and policmakers have to go with what's on the ground and real now, not something proposed given information that's a decade out of date.

EDIT: I just want to highlight that this process of information gathering and refining can be very problematic when overnership of and decision making for a project changes hands as it does with our RRA/Met Council/CTIB split. This is a big structural flaw in our transportation planning and is at least as causal of the current anguish as any resistance to new information.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Chauncey87 » October 14th, 2013, 11:13 pm

"Southwest light-rail plan advances, but without an endorsement"

"Controversial plans for a light-rail line to the southwest suburbs were advanced but not endorsed Monday by key policymakers who withheld judgment on digging nearly a mile of tunnels in a recreational corridor of Minneapolis.

The unusual decision came on the eve of talks on the project scheduled Tuesday involving Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Hennepin County officials, legislators and Metropolitan Council chair Susan Haigh, whose agency is planning the $1.55 billion rail line. Rybak and some Minneapolis legislators have pressed Haigh and the governor for more time to study the environmental impact of the tunnels on the Kenilworth area of Minneapolis and look for alternatives."

http://www.startribune.com/local/227757711.html

Q. How can a one mile cut and cover tunnel cost $160 million?

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby mulad » October 15th, 2013, 2:26 am

I wish I knew more about the history here, so I have a few questions: How frequently have planners been interacting with the railroads for this project? They probably need to be treated similar to cities along the route. Have there been regular discussions with all three railroads, TC&W, CP, and BNSF? CP owns some of the track TC&W uses, and the reroute through SLP would have dropped traffic onto CP tracks for a short distance before reaching the BNSF. Sure, it's just moving the junction point, restoring an old one that used to exist, but it's going to have an impact on operations, probably requiring the existing CTC zone to be extended westward. Even if the trains stay in Kenilworth, there would probably be some period of time when train traffic would need to be rerouted, and the obvious choice is to have trains (or at least train cars) go waaay to the other end of the TC&W line and come to the Twin Cities via the BNSF (going through the cities of Granite Falls and Willmar)

Also, I'm not sure if people are remembering that the north-south Canadian Pacific tracks (MNS subdivision) are an obvious choice for the Dan Patch Line to Northfield. Of course, there's a legislative ban on planning for Dan Patch, so the Met Council is almost required to be oblivious to that, but there's a good chance we'd go through this whole mess about realigning tracks through SLP all over again in a few years if/when the ban gets lifted.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2013, 8:34 am

I wish I knew more about the history here, so I have a few questions: How frequently have planners been interacting with the railroads for this project?
I have heard a lot of different stories here so I don't know what's accurate. Best as I can tell, TC&W got engaged rather late. Some people say the county failed to consult them. Others say TC&W refused to talk. Perhaps it's both.
Also, I'm not sure if people are remembering that the north-south Canadian Pacific tracks (MNS subdivision) are an obvious choice for the Dan Patch Line to Northfield. Of course, there's a legislative ban on planning for Dan Patch, so the Met Council is almost required to be oblivious to that, but there's a good chance we'd go through this whole mess about realigning tracks through SLP all over again in a few years if/when the ban gets lifted.
I don't think the same kind of realignment would be needed for passenger rail. The trains are much shorter, lighter and could slow down through the curves. Obviously that's speculation on my part.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2013, 8:36 am

"Q. How can a one mile cut and cover tunnel cost $160 million?
Q. How can a mile of urban freeway cost $X million?

Sometimes stuff just costs a lot, more than the average person would expect. We are not very good at informing people how much transportation investment costs.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » October 15th, 2013, 9:05 am

BREAKING NEWS: http://www.startribune.com/local/west/227820621.html

Governor Dayton announces 60-90 day delay on Met Council vote to study other freight options and further study the possible impact of tunnels on Minneapolis lakes.

People complain about the Met Council not being elected, but there you have it. Big move by Governor Dayton today to step up and take accountability for Met Council's actions. No matter which side you're on, this was the right move. The additional freight study was needed, after that consultant walked away on conflict of interest, and there simply hasn't been enough time to study the impact of tunnels on the lakes.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2013, 9:08 am

BREAKING NEWS: http://www.startribune.com/local/west/227820621.html

Governor Dayton announces 60-90 day delay on Met Council vote to study other freight options and give further study to impact of tunnels on Minneapolis lakes.

People complain about the Met Council not being elected, but there you have it. Big move by Governor Dayton today to step up and take accountability for Met Council's actions.
This is not good news. They're going to miss the federal funding window and will have to seek funding under a post-Obama administration. It's likely that the next administration will be notably less transit-friendly.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Silophant » October 15th, 2013, 9:13 am

The vote's been postponed for two to three months, to "allow time to look at alternative routes". Can someone better at reading between the lines than me take a stab at what this actually means? Is it just alternate freight routes they're looking at, or would they look at a bike trail reroute as well? As much as I'd love it, I can't imagine that three months is enough time to seriously look at rerouting the LRT itself.

Also, I note that this means that the vote probably won't happen until after the new mayor and City Council are in office, which seems proper to me. This is too big of a thing to be decided by a government with so many lame ducks.

Edit: ouch, super-ninja'd.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » October 15th, 2013, 9:17 am

David, seriously, you don't know that. Complete conjecture on both counts. The next administration could be more transit friendly for all we know. The current administration is in office until Jan. 2017. The Federal Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) is penciled in for Summer 2015. A 3-month delay isn't going to push this into the next administration no matter how much you dramatize it.
This is too big of a thing to be decided by a government with so many lame ducks.
Amen.
Last edited by twincitizen on October 15th, 2013, 9:24 am, edited 3 times in total.


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