MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Metropolitan Council announced Tuesday that its partners are considering cutting the last two stops on the projected Southwest Light Rail Line in order to keep the Green Line extension project connecting Eden Prairie to downtown Minneapolis on budget.
In a press release, the council said that its Corridor Management Committee, which met recently last week and has representatives from the communities the extension would serve, is giving considerable attention to an option that would eliminate the proposed Southwest and Mitchell stations. In this new scenario, the Green Line’s end would be at an Eden Prairie town center station, cutting millions of dollars from the construction budget.
Discussions for big cuts to the Southwest Light Rail Line were necessary since the discovery earlier this year that poor soil conditions along the proposed line would balloon the construction budget by $341 million – to a total of nearly $2 billion.
Since cutting landscaping, artwork and park-and-ride stations wouldn’t slim up the budget enough, the Metropolitan Council was forced to eye axing significant parts of the project in order to keep it on a $1.65 billion budget.
Other options the Corridor Management Committee are looking at include ending the line at the Golden Triangle station, the fourth-to-last station on the originally proposed line; and ending the line at the Southwest station, the second-to-last stop on the originally proposed line.
The problem with the latter option, the Metropolitan Council said, is that while it could conceivably work with the budget, it would require too many other cuts that would hurt ridership and the project’s chances of getting federal money.
The issue with the Golden Triangle solution is that it would be too “draconian” a cut for the Eden Prairie community to bear, the Metropolitan Council said.
There are also other, smaller cost-cutting options on the table. The Metropolitan Council said those include trimming the number of fleet train cars, cutting park-and-rides at eight stops, and deferring and/or deleting stations at Penn, 21st Street and Royalston.
The Corridor Management Committee is slated to meet again on June 24 to compare the Southwest Light Rail Line to other transit options, such as bus service. Then, on June 1, the Metropolitan Council says the committee must recommend an option. If the Southwest Light Rail Line is chosen, a version of the project with an adjusted scope and budget will be presented to the council.
On July 8, the council will decide whether or not to move forward with the light rail extension project.