County advances Southwest LRT project with funding approvals

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Hennepin County Minnesota


Contact: Carolyn Marinan, Communications, 612-348-5969

County advances Southwest LRT project with funding approvals

At special meetings this afternoon, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority approved up to $435 million for early construction activities and other expenditures for the Southwest Light Rail Transit project (SWLRT).

These actions enable the Metropolitan Council to award the construction contract to begin work on the $2.03 billion transit line, which they are expected to do later today.

The county board also approved a commitment, as requested by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), for up to an additional $200.3 million for Southwest LRT, or 10 percent of the total project budget, in the event of funding shortfalls or cost increases, with a parallel commitment for the Bottineau Light Rail Transit project.

Today’s approvals follow the Metropolitan Council’s receipt yesterday of a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) from the Federal Transit Administration, which cleared the way for construction to begin on the Southwest Light Rail Transit project. The letter allows local funds to be spent with the understanding that these costs may be reimbursed should the federal government approve full funding for the project at a later date.

 “This is a big moment for the Southwest LRT project, but also for our county, region and state,” said Hennepin County Board of Commissioners Chair Jan Callison. “The economic benefits of light rail are unmistakable. This line will connect workers to hundreds of thousands of jobs in one of the fastest growing parts of the Twin Cities. We’re already seeing major investments and development along the route. The billions of dollars in community and economic development along our existing LRT corridors shows the immense value these types of infrastructure investments can bring to our communities.”

“A successful transportation system is a bedrock that keeps our economy growing and creates opportunities for our residents, businesses, and communities,” said Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority Chair Peter McLaughlin. “Transit is a critical piece of our transportation network. It works alongside our county roads, bridges, bikeways and walkways, to connect people to the places they need to go. As our region continues to grow, our transportation network needs to grow along with it. These actions taken today help to ensure that happens in a way that sets us up for long-term success.”

The Metropolitan Council will meet today, following county board actions, to award the project’s civil construction contract.

Early construction activities this winter could include staffing and equipment mobilization, site clearance, demolition and utility work. Heavy construction would occur in 2019-2022, with testing of the system with new light rail vehicles anticipated in 2022-2023. Southwest LRT is expected to begin passenger service in 2023 as an extension of the METRO Green Line.

The existing Green Line received nine Letters of No Prejudice to allow it to move forward with construction before receiving a federal full funding grant agreement in 2011.

SWLRT is a 14.5-mile line with 16 stations serving Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, nearby Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. In 2014, there were approximately 64,300 jobs within a half mile of the proposed stations and 126,800 jobs in downtown Minneapolis. By 2035, employment is expected to grow to 80,900 within a half mile of the proposed stations and 145,300 in downtown Minneapolis — an 18 percent increase in employment. The population along the line outside of downtown Minneapolis is expected to grow by 56 percent from 2014 to 2035.

Read the board actions:

County Board Action Request 18-0499

HCRRA Board Action Request 18-HCRRA-0056

County Board Action Request 18-0500

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