$100 million typo complicates case for keeping freight trains out of St. Louis Park

Thanks to a nine-figure typo, this guy's argument isn't as strong as it was days ago.
Thanks to a nine-figure typo, this guy's argument isn't as strong as it was days ago.
Patch screengrab

A group of St. Louis Park residents have been outspoken in their opposition to the preliminary plan for the Southwest LRT route, as it would reroute freight train traffic from south Minneapolis through their community.

SEE ALSO: Business community comes out in support of Southwest LRT

The group, Safety in the Park, bases their case on traffic, safety, quality-of-life, and cost concerns. With regard to the cost, they've cited HDR Engineering's estimate that keeping freight trains in Minneapolis would be $123 million cheaper than rerouting. But it turns out that number was off by nine figures -- HDR recently informed St. Louis Park officials their report contains a $100 million typo. The added cost of rerouting is only $23 million.

Safety in the Park leaders are skeptical about the mistake, which was only noticed 45 days after HDR's report was issued, as it bolsters the case for freight rerouting at a critical time -- Hennepin County's review of the plan ends early next month, after which the matter will be forwarded to the all-powerful Met Council. Rerouting opponents now want the Federal Transit Administration to step in and conduct an independent cost review.

From the Star Tribune:

"The fact they made a $100 million error makes me wonder what other errors are in the report," said Sue Sanger, a City Council member whose ward is slated to get the traffic if Minneapolis doesn't. "I was shocked."...

In a letter dated Nov. 21, HDR Engineering says editing and formatting of the document in response to FTA comments caused the error.

The plan favored by HDR would run LRT  along Minneapolis tracks that currently carry freight traffic. It would reroute that freight traffic away from LRT, onto a different set of tracks in St. Louis Park. In an MPR report, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin explained why county officials seem to be leaning toward going along with HDR's recommendation, rather than having LRT and freight traffic running side by side on the Minneapolis tracks.

"Juxtaposing freight rail and light rail cars, it's very different technology," McLaughlin said. "There are safety standards that make it very difficult to do that. There are park concerns as well."

Southwest LRT would run 15 miles through Eden Prarie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, and Minneapolis. It would connect with the Hiawatha and Central Corridor lines at an emerging transit hub next to Target Field. Total project cost is estimated at $1.25 billion, with about half the total coming from the federal government.

As MPR reports, "If Congress, and state and local governments OK the money and the Metropolitan Council sorts out the details of which trains go where, the Southwest Corridor light rail line could open in 2018."

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