New, higher price tag for Southwest Light Rail project passes $2 billion

There is a new price tag for the Southwest Light Rail project. 

Planners now believe it will cost more than $2 billion to build the line, which would eventually connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

The rising costs are attributed to schedule delays and the rising price of materials and labor. 

Budget changes mean the project will now cost $145-million more than the last estimate. 

“This project is still needed,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. “It will still provide much needed transportation infrastructure for the next 100 years, and it's going to make our economy better and more competitive.” 

“I've seen this in government before. We move on a project, we keep spending millions. We're spending hundreds of millions at this point on this, not knowing whether it's going to happen,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who is also running for governor. 

“If you look at the history of projects around the country, big capital projects, delays cause increases in price… and there have been delays here. And so we're now paying the price for that,” McLaughlin said. 

“The Southwest Light Rail, while it's kind of a cool project, and there's a lot of people who think ‘I'm willing to fund it, because it will clear up traffic congestion for me to drive downtown,’ it won't clear up traffic congestion,” Johnson said. 

The Met Council still has to accept a construction bid on the project and start negotiations with the chosen contractor. They also need to firm up federal funding which is set to cover almost half of the cost of the project. 

Early construction is expected to start this fall. The goal is to have the 14.5-mile route up and running by 2023. 

The Hennepin County Board will vote on the budget increase at the end of the month.