Southwest Light Rail delayed until 2020, now $2 billion project

The cost of the future Southwest Light Rail Transit line has jumped $341 million to just under $2 billion, and the Metropolitan Council now expects the project to open in 2020 instead of 2019.

Reason for delay

An environmental impact statement from the Federal Transit Administration and Met Council that was expected in January 2014 is now expected to be published in late May. The delay in reporting was a result of more engineering and environmental studies that looked at problems with ground conditions, soil contamination and drainage along the route.

Reasons for the extra cost

Met Council analysis released Monday pointed to 6 factors identified through testing and engineering:

Changes in design due to poor ground conditions along the entire route, and soil contamination in St. Louis Park and Hopkins.

Changes in design due to wetlands, flood plains and drainage areas affected by the route -- mostly in Eden Prairie.

New acquisition of 11 acres of property and 99 additional business relocations.

80 percent increase in retaining walls identified, as well as bridges and connecting roads.

Changes in design to address light rail and freight rail operational and safety requirements, including 5 gated LRT crossings and safety improvements at 5 shared crossings.

Governor: 'Serious questions' about viability

"I was shocked and appalled to learn last Friday that the staff at the Metropolitan Council had increased its estimate of the cost of the Southwest Line Rail Transit line by $341 million to $1.994 billion," Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement. "The continuing escalation of the costs to design and build this line raise serious questions about its viability and affordability. The full board of the Metropolitan Council should quickly review other options for providing much-needed public transit to this region of the metro area."

'All options on the table' to save money

"The additional costs for the Southwest LRT Project pose significant challenges for our funding partners and taxpayers," said Met Council chairman Adam Duininck.

Duininck pledged to "pursue every possible efficiency" to save money on the project, and said "all options are on the table."

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