Agreement with Hennepin County will fund Blue Line Extension project through 2024 and establish new governance structure

Date: Thursday, September 14, 2023

Metropolitan Council members and the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approved a grant agreement that will provide $75.3 million in county funds for the METRO Blue Line Extension light rail project to keep project work going through the end of 2024.

The Metropolitan Council voted to accept the funding and approve the agreement on Wednesday, Sept. 13. This action follows a unanimous vote by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners to provide the funding and approve the agreement on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

The funding will allow the project to:

  • Continue engineering and consulting services necessary to advance design and environmental analysis
  • Continue extensive outreach and engagement efforts
  • Advance implementation of strategies to build community prosperity and prevent displacement
  • Update ridership projections
  • Prepare an updated cost estimate and schedule
  • Prepare plans and other technical information required to seek municipal consent from cities along the corridor.

The funding agreement also establishes a governance process for the project and identifies responsibilities between Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council.

"We have demonstrated a shared commitment to centering residents, prioritizing those with the most needs, and investing in a manner that allows the people and businesses already in the corridor to thrive,” said Irene Fernando, Hennepin County Board Chair and District 2 Commissioner. “This agreement allows that critical work to continue and gives us a strong partnership structure to maximize benefits of this project for current corridor resident and businesses.”

“The proposed Capital Grant Agreement emphasizes partnership, collaboration, shared decision-making, risk management strategies, and transparency within a new governance model,” said Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle. “We value our strong collaborative partnership with Hennepin County as we continue to innovate in delivering the Blue Line Extension project to connect people to opportunities and bring transformative benefits to the communities it serves.”

Agreement makes major changes in governance compared to previous transitway projects

  • The pact authorizes agreements with funding partners for each project phase.
  • A new governance model, the Project Decisions Board, will be formed to approve and authorize major project decisions. The new board will be made up of two county commissioners, one commissioner from the regional railroad authority, and two Metropolitan Council members.
  • An integrated project office with staff from both Hennepin County and Metropolitan Council leadership roles will continue to work collaboratively to deliver the project.
  • Streamlined reporting and processes will be implemented that maximize efficiencies for both parties.
  • Financial roles are clarified.

Financial responsibilities are spelled out between the Met Council and Hennepin County

  • The Met Council will be responsible for federal funds in a future Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA), with its contributions limited to FFGA and any funds provided to the Met Council specifically for Blue Line Extension. The Met Council is also responsible for future operations and capital maintenance (not covered in this Capital Grant Agreement).
  • Hennepin County is responsible for the local share of funding in engineering and construction phases, including project start-up costs.
  • Through the new Project Decisions Board, both parties have approval of project budget, contract awards and change orders.

Next steps and a timeline

The action approved by the Met Council authorizes the project team to advance design plans and complete the municipal consent process beginning in summer 2024 to confirm the final route.

  • Updated ridership projections: early 2024
  • Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Spring 2024
  • Municipal consent process begins to confirm final route: Summer 2024
  • Updated cost estimate: 2024
  • Final design: 2024-2025
  • Construction starts: 2026-2027
  • Anticipated opening: 2030

Posted In: Transportation