Southwest Light Rail: Making Good Progress

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By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

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Southwest light rail will be an extension of the new Green Line.

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The Southwest LRT (METRO Green Line Extension) project took a big step forward in December when the Metropolitan Council awarded a $117 million contract to AECOM for advanced design and design assistance during construction. AECOM was also the Metropolitan Council’s engineering services consultant for the Green Line.

The AECOM contract will move the Southwest LRT project from a 30 percent level of detail to 100 percent. Designs are needed for everything from bridges over major roads (of which there are many!) to the location of bike and pedestrian connections and electrical substations.

Project funding is also coming together. Of the $1.65 billion project budget, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, and the state legislature have formally committed $705 million, or 85 percent of the local match. The project still needs a 50 percent match from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The Metropolitan Council will submit a federal New Starts grant request in 2016.

Now that the route and station locations are set, station design and public art will be a major focus of community input in 2015. Many of those community meetings will occur next spring and summer. An additional focus of public input in 2015 will be the selection of a design concept for the bridge over the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. One goal is to create more space for skiers, canoeists, and kayakers under the bridge. All three recently shared design concepts would reduce the number of rows of bridge piers from six to three.

The Southwest Project Office and local communities also will consider how to increase safe and direct access for bicyclists, pedestrians, and people using a wheelchair (or other device) to and from the new stations.

While a lawsuit has been filed to stop or delay Southwest LRT, lawsuits are common with many major transit projects, and often major highway projects. Despite past legal action by Xcel Energy, Minnesota Public Radio, and the University of Minnesota, our region’s first two light rail lines are operating successfully today.

See the project website for more news and upcoming meeting notices.

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