Cost-cutting along the Southwest Light Rail Line

The future Southwest Light Rail Transit Line expected to provide service between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie is slated for completion in 2020, but the question remains: At what cost?

Pulling out the stops

At a new price tag of nearly $2 billion, officials are committed to finding some $350 million in savings to keep on budget and make the project a reality. On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Council unveiled a potential road map to get there, and the biggest cost-savers were getting rid of stations along the 16-mile line. There are 17 are earmarked in the current alignment.

SWLRT proposed budget cuts: [PDF]

Removing the stop along Royalston Avenue near Target Field is expected to save over $7 million. Removing the next stop at Penn Avenue just south of I-394 in Minneapolis would mean another possible $16 million saved.

City leaders won't let that happen without a big-time fight, however, and say eliminating two out of three stations in that area of the city fails to serve commuters.

On the other side

At the opposite end of the line, Eden Prairie is gearing up for a battle over its proposed light rail stops.. It's currently slated to stretch all the way out near the community's city hall complex on Mitchell Road. Shave off that stop and get rid of the new track that would be needed, cost savings could top $115 million.

The line would then start and end at the current Southwest Transit Center, a seemingly natural location with a large parking garage, but the chairman of the Met Council insists nothing about this process will be easy.

"It's going to be a challenge to figure out what to reduce that doesn't hurt the project and make it less of a project. It's also going to be hard to reduce things that keep the coalition together that has gotten us this far," Adam Duininck said.

The biggest savings

The biggest savings seem to lie on the Eden Prairie side. If the Southwest Transit Center stop and Mitchell Road stops are removed, and instead, the area around Eden Prairie Mall is the first and final stop, about $225 million could be out of the picture.

A final decision is expected to come July 1.

READ THIS NEXT  - SWLRT delayed until 2020, now $2 billion project

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