Council OKs revised Southwest LRT with Southwest Station as westernmost stop

Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Southwest Station will become the Southwest LRT’s westernmost stop, eliminating Mitchell Road Station, and Town Center Station will be deferred as part of $250 million in cost reductions approved July 8 by the Metropolitan Council.

Southwest light rail route map - July 8 2015. LINK TO LARGER PDF MAP.The Met Council adopted a July 1 Southwest Corridor Management Committee resolution recommending these changes and committing corridor cities, Hennepin County and other project partners to assist with paying for them, as the new cost estimate of about $1.744 billion exceeds the previously approved $1.653 billion cost estimate.

“Today’s vote demonstrates the momentum behind this project. The corridor cities and Hennepin County really pulled together to deliver a plan to scale back the project, while preserving its ability to serve the region,” said Chair Adam Duininck. “I think that [Hennepin County] Commissioner Jan Callison summed it up best when she said we’ve moved from ‘shared sacrifice to shared investment.’”

The decision makes good sense from a regional transit perspective.

“Making Southwest Station the westernmost stop maintains an important element of the project by connecting the light rail to an existing transit hub, connecting people with jobs throughout the corridor,” Duininck said.

The formerly 15.8-mile line with 17 stations was set to open in 2019. The METRO Green Line Extension will now open in 2020 with 14.4 miles and 15 stations at a revised cost estimate of about $1.744 billion, down from the $1.994 billion estimate in April when costs rose due to delays and test results that showed poor ground conditions and soil contamination. The project’s forecasted average weekday ridership in 2040 is approximately 34,000, which is needed to retain an overall medium-high rating in the competition for federal matching funds.

Next steps

The project currently has more than $675 million in local funding commitments, including:

  • $496 million from the Counties Transit Improvement Board

  • $165 million from Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority

  • Over $14 million in state funds

Addition funding commitments are necessary. On July 7, Hennepin County approved $5 million for soil cleanup and Hopkins approved $500,000. The cities of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and St. Louis Park are both anticipated to make commitments.

Municipal consent to be sought again in light of changes

In light of reducing approximately $250 million in project scope throughout the corridor, the Council is choosing to seek municipal consent from Hennepin County and the five cities. The Council will vote on initiating municipal consent at its July 22 meeting. The first round of municipal consent hearings was held last summer on the preliminary engineering plans before the recent scope reductions and other changes.

What was deferred, reduced or eliminated corridor-wide

  • Mitchell Road Station and its park-and-ride facility were eliminated.

  • Town Center Station and its park-and-ride facility will be deferred, meaning only the foundation and underground infrastructure for the future station platform will be built.

  • Off-platform station furnishings throughout the corridor, including bike racks, trash cans and seating, were cut by 50 percent. Station platforms will still have seating.

  • Station art was eliminated throughout the corridor.

  • Landscaping allowance for trees, sod, plantings/mulch, seed, mulch and topsoil at stations, the operations and maintenance facility and throughout the corridor was cut by 75 percent. This does not affect the plans for Kenilworth landscaping.

  • Park-and-ride stalls overall were cut from 3,834 to 2,487. All park-and-rides were reduced to surface parking lots with the exception of the park-and-ride structures at Southwest Station and Downtown Hopkins Station. The capacity of most park-and-rides was reduced to opening day forecasts.

  • Light-rail vehicle fleet is reduced by five vehicles; the project will now have 27 vehicles.

  • Operations and maintenance facility is reduced in size.

  • The opportunity for joint development is deleted at Blake Station but retained at Beltline Station.

  • Beltline Station Trail Bridge is still included but trail structures deleted from the plans are the:

    • Trail underpass under freight tracks at Louisiana Station was replaced with a reroute of pedestrians to the platform via the existing trail access at Louisiana Avenue.

    • North Cedar Lake Trail Bridge at Penn Station will be replaced with an at-grade crossing west of the station platform.

    • Two pedestrian underpasses at Opus Station under Bren Road East and Bren Road West will be replaced with a proposed relocated bus stop on Bren Road West to Bren Road East where patrons can utilize an existing crosswalk to access the station platform from the bus stop.

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