St. Louis Park residents fight to slow freight train re-routing - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

St. Louis Park residents fight to slow freight train re-routing

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For many residents in St. Louis Park, freight trains are a tough thing to ignore -- especially since a new proposal would send them straight through the high school's football field.

While planners say re-routing the tracks through the middle of the field would allow for gentler turns, opponents of the plan say it's all happening too fast and with too little input from the community.

"We have two trains a day," Jami Lapray told FOX 9 News. "The trains are short."

That's as it stands today, but Lapray says the number of freight trains rumbling through her neighborhood could go up tenfold if one of the new proposals submitted by the Metropolitan Council is approved.

"It would be like the Met Council saying, 'We want to turn the residential street in front of your house into 394," Lapray said.

In light of the new cargo being carried by the freight trains, Lapray is also concerned about accidents.

"Eighty to 125 cars of ethanol running right in front of our elementary school and high school," she said.

If the freight trains do cut through the current football field, athletes will have to find a new home -- and that's part of the plan in at least one proposal. Even so, Lapray and a group of community activists are working to convince the Metropolitan Council that more dialogue must be had before a decision is made.

"My concern is that I'm not an engineer," Lapray said. "I look at those fancy plans and I need to study them. I need to have time to think about it."

The Southwest light rail is the main driving force behind the plans because the Metropolitan Council needs to start construction through the Kenilworth Corridor; however, Minneapolis doesn't want freight trains traveling through there as well. That means the solution is to either lay light rail tracks parallel to the existing tracks or reroute the freight trains through St. Louis Park.

"The trains would literally turn this corner … go right up next to our high school," said community activist Thom Miller.

Miller explained that the first proposal to put the trains through his St. Louis Park neighborhood was rejected because the turns the trains would take were too tight. That sent planners back to the drawing board -- but residents say the second try doesn't make the grade.

"Now the plan is to take this curve at a much more gentle curve -- but it would go through our football field, the playground of an elementary school," Miller said. "They'll be plowing under a football field, homes, businesses to create a new rail wall that will go through our neighborhoods."

FOX 9 News attempted to contact the Metropolitan Council for an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson refused. Instead, they sent PowerPoint presentations about the proposals and said they are still considering all the options.

Community members will have another chance to chime in before the City Council takes a final vote. That meeting is expected toward the end of summer.

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