Construction of the Southwest LRT Line (Green Line Extension) necessitates that freight rail traffic currently running along the preferred LRT route in Minneapolis is either kept with adjustments or relocated to St. Louis Park.
Planners for the Southwest LRT Project proposed eight options in May for either relocating freight traffic to St. Louis Park or keeping it in Minneapolis. Today, estimated costs for the eight options, which range from a low of $120 million to a high of $420 million, were announced. Of this, $85 million to $90 million is for changes common to all options.
“Building Southwest Light Rail is about expanding our mobility and access to jobs, schools, entertainment, and many other popular destinations in our region,” said Council Chair Susan Haigh. “This project is important to the quality of life and economic competitiveness of our region. We are committed to building a safe and efficient transit line that improves mobility, supports economic development along the corridor, and meets the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists, all while minimizing impacts to communities, businesses and households.”
“Community support, interest and involvement in this project continues to be outstanding and we’re grateful to have so many engaged residents who want to help us improve the overall project,” continued Haigh.
Over the past two months, Council staff held 11 open houses related to Southwest LRT, which were attended by more than 800 people. Roughly 800 comments, suggestions and critiques have been received.
The Metropolitan Council will look for alternate funding sources to cover some of these costs since these amounts are not included in the project’s $1.25 billion estimated budget. Funding partners include the Federal Government, Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority.
On May 28, the project office announced six co-location options for keeping freight rail traffic in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Minneapolis where LRT tracks would also be built. Two other options relocate freight rail traffic to St. Louis Park.
Since then, project engineers have revised these options based on feedback from the public. Better pedestrian and bicycle connections have been added to the two relocation options.
For each co-location option, the number of homes expected to be taken has either been reduced significantly or eliminated entirely. Specifically, in all but one of the six co-location options full acquisition of homes could be eliminated. “In response to clear feedback from communities, project staff adjusted design options to minimize or avoid taking of private homes and improve pedestrian and bicycle access,” said Mark Fuhrmann, who leads LRT project development for the Met Council, “We want to be responsive to the communities who strongly support this project, and believe it can be made better.”
The cost estimates for all eight options include adjustments to LRT to accommodate freight rail, capital improvements, right-of-way acquisition, contingency and other costs, such as design and finance costs. The estimates are based on 2013 costs.
In addition to the cost estimates below that are specific to each option, all options require the accommodation of common improvements which are estimated to add $85 million to $90 million to each option.
For co-location, cost estimates and primary cost drivers are:
All modes (trail, freight and LRT) at ground level: $50 million to $55 million. Reduces full residential property acquisitions from 55 to 26.
Trail relocated: - $35 million to $40 million. New trail route from Midtown Greenway to Cedar Lake Parkway, including trail overpass structures. Avoids full residential property acquisitions.
Trail elevated: $50 million to $55 million. New elevated trail, including handicapped accessible connection to Cedar Lake Parkway. Avoids full residential property acquisitions.
LRT elevated: $105 million to $110 million. New elevated LRT structure. Avoids full residential property acquisitions.
Kenilworth deep LRT tunnel: $320 million to $330 million. Tunnel-boring operations and machinery, reconstruction of West Lake Street Bridge, subway tunnel station at West Lake and eliminates 21st Street Station. Avoids full residential property acquisitions.
Kenilworth shallow LRT tunnel: $150 million to $160 million. Cut-and-cover excavation, retains West Lake Street Station and eliminates 21st Street Station. Avoids full residential property acquisitions.
For relocation, cost estimates and primary cost drivers are:
Brunswick West alignment (through St. Louis Park High School football field): $200 million to $210 million. Full or partial acquisition of 46 homes, businesses or public properties; construction of freight rail bridge structures, lowering of frontage road at Highway 7; and reconfiguration of local roads.
Brunswick Central alignment (avoids St. Louis Park High School football field): $190 million to $200 million. Full or partial acquisition of 32 homes, businesses and public properties; construction of overhead freight bridge; lowering of Highway 7 and frontage road; and, reconfiguration of local roads.
The project office will continue taking feedback on freight rail location at two previously announced public meetings this week from 4:30 to 7 this evening at Jones-Harrison Residence, 3700 Cedar Lake Ave., in Minneapolis and from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Louis Park High School, 6425 W. 33rd St., in St. Louis Park. Staff will present the cost estimates for the eight options for freight rail location and explain the primary cost drivers for each.
Project advisory committees will be meeting, as will the Corridor Management Committee, in the coming weeks. Staff will summarize and share the feedback with the project’s committees and the Metropolitan Council to help them understand the issues as they provide their input.
UPDATE — SEPTEMBER 5, 2013: The Metropolitan Council was initially slated to vote on a final co-location/relocation alternative on August 28. That vote will now occur October 9, with advice and direction coming earlier in the month from the Council's advisory bodies and Transportation Committee.