January 12, 2023
Mayor Jacob Frey
350 S. Fifth St., Room 331
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Delivered via email
Dear Mayor Frey:
On behalf of Cedar-Isles-Dean residents and Minneapolis residents living along the Southwest Light Rail line, we write to you to request the City of Minneapolis and associated SWLRT project partners to conduct a public preparedness and evacuation drill this spring to prepare and educate residents on how to respond in the potentially catastrophic event of a freight train or light rail derailment, explosion or emergency along the Kenilworth Corridor.
The Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association has requested this formal evacuation drill at public rail safety meetings for the past several years. While conversations had stalled due to COVID and the previous Fire Chief’s departure, we are encouraged by the willingness we heard at the state mandated Rail Safety Meeting on December 1 from the City, rail company, fire chief and the Met Council project staff on the need for this training to be held. During his tenure, Fire Chief Fruetel had indicated the feasibility of an evacuation drill and a hazmat spill into the lake and thought it would benefit the department to rehearse hazmat skills around the chain of lakes.
As all parties are aware, when completed, the two-way Southwest Light Rail line will be co-located in the narrow Kenilworth Corridor with multiple daily freight lines hauling ethanol and other volatile compounds by a bike and pedestrian path as well. This Corridor is densely populated on both sides of the route and geographically trapped with Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake in the center of the neighborhood. Previous estimates show that an explosion on this line would have a potential blast zone of 2.2 miles – which would encompass an elementary school, an assisted living facility, a community center, hundreds of rental units and private homes.
The residents along the SWLRT Kenilworth Corridor deserve to be educated, informed and supported on how best to protect themselves and their families in the devastating event that an urban derailment should occur.
Our request is that an emergency training be held not focused DIY safety but to provide a role for community members to identify areas of focus/priority and to guide a preparedness drill under the worst-case scenario planning in the corridor (i.e., ethanol train derailment involving LRT, hazardous material spill into the lakes, sewer and tunnel; explosion and emergency evacuation, etc.).
We are encouraged by the City’s willingness to convene a planning meeting on January 13 but take this as just the first step in the process.
The time for this training is now. During the 2021 Minnesota legislative session, $1 million was appropriated for rail safety advocacy. It seems reasonable for the funds to be used for spill drill, explosion, and evacuation preparedness. The bill made available $1 million as of January 2022 and it must be utilized by June 2023.
We thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter and await your reply.
Cedar-Isles-Dean Board of Directors
Laura Cederberg, Chair
Tim Sheridan, Vice-Chair
Mike Siebenaler, Treasurer