$70 million needed for freight rail interchange not accounted for in Southwest LRT alternatives evaluation

MNDOT says that in order to accommodate the proposed alignment of the Southwest LRT line in the Kenilworth corridor, which currently includes a freight rail line, a $70 million rail interchange would need to be constructed in Saint Louis Park to reroute freight trains.  From the Strib:

The new [freight] connection is under study because the Kenilworth corridor is part of the route selected for the proposed southwest light-rail line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

Hennepin County, which owns the Kenilworth corridor, says pinch points along the route — between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles — do not leave space for both freight and light rail. The county has planned the light-rail line assuming the freight tracks would be moved.

The County may have planned the line this way, but it didn’t include these costs in the capital cost estimates for the 3A route.  This is from the Locally Preferred Alternative Evaluation Documents, Technical Memo #7A – Capital Costs:

Freight Rail Modifications – Modifications to freight rail operations were not separately quantified in the LRT alternative cost estimates. The relocation of TC&W near Louisiana Avenue is not considered a cost of any LRT alternative in this project. Minor shoofly alignments associated with bridge construction are included in the cost of the bridge in this estimate.

I assume this means that none of these costs made it into the Draft EIS which is under review by the Federal Transit Administration.

9 thoughts on “$70 million needed for freight rail interchange not accounted for in Southwest LRT alternatives evaluation

  1. 3C or some variant will only come back online if and only if the 3A alignment falls apart. The costs of 3C were very high and the study used poor ridership projections, so unless they can figure out a way to graceful admit that the numbers need to re-looked at, I doubt that any other alignment in SW has a chance to change until things fully fall apart. And even then, it’d probably take a new dedication to transit funding to get 3C through…

  2. The TC&W reroute is properly left out of a capital cost estimate for the SW Transitway because it is not part of the SW Transitway project.

    Railroads are private for-profit companies and typically pay their own costs for capital projects. This situation is a bit different, because TC&W needs to be rerouted due to MnDOT’s decision to severe its former route (through the Midtown Greenway) when it grade-separated the Lake St interchange with Hiawatha Ave.

    Even though the SW Transitway is intertwined now (because Kenilworth was used as a temporary reroute for TC&W with the understanding that it be used for no more than 6 years – that was 10 years ago) that does not mean that they are the same project. The history and cost estimates are here:

    http://www.stlouispark.org/pdf/freight_rail_realignment_study.pdf

    • Alex, this is helpful, and of course the story is more complicated. However, this still leaves two questions: 1) Will the railroad be picking up the cost of the interchange? and 2) would Kenilworth continue to be used as a reroute for freight if Southwest LRT hadn’t come along? That certainly seems to be the spirit of the article (“the new connection is under study because…”). If this is the case, then it seems the reroute cost should be considered part of the LRT capital cost.

      • That is what the article got wrong – the freight line was supposed to be closed when HCRRA bought it, which was before SW Transitway was within the realm of possibility. “The new connection” is only under study by neighborhood groups because of the high-profile of the transit project; in fact it has been under study by MnDOT for more than ten years.

        It was only because MnDOT closed the TC&W’s Midtown Greenway route to build Hiawatha’s overpass over Lake St that they needed to use Kenilworth temporarily, until MnDOT got a permanent route built for TC&W.

        I’m not sure what MnDOT’s excuse for not doing that is, a couple more valid ones I can think of would be not having recently updated a statewide rail plan and not having any money.

        But yes, I believe in this case MnDOT is on the hook for the tab but it would more appropriately be accounted for as part of the Hiawatha-Lake St Interchange Project and hopefully for that reason they can use Federal Highway money for it. I’m not for sure, though, since few things are more opaque than government budgets.

  3. I don’t think add ons like that should be added to the cost of the project. It always annoys me when cities want to rebuild a street because of an LRT project and tack it onto the cost. That’s where a lot of the inflation of price comes in.

  4. Pingback: “significant risks of derailment at both ends” | Net Density

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