Representatives of project funders, the county and cities along the planned Southwest LRT line are trying to decide whether to make Town Center or Southwest in Eden Prairie the westernmost station.
At the June 24 Corridor Management Committee meeting, project staff said ending the line at Town Center would allow the extension of tracks and the building of Southwest Station in the future. This would reduce costs enough to keep the project within its $1.653 billion budget while ensuring high enough ridership.
Also at the meeting, Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens suggested a new scenario that would eliminate Mitchell Station, end the line at Southwest and defer construction of Town Center Station as part of the initial project. Staff will analyze this new scenario. They will provide more information at the advisory body’s July 1 meeting about whether high enough ridership and enough cost savings could be realized. Previous project estimates showed that ending the line at Southwest Station did not reduce costs enough.
The Corridor Management Committee is expected to make a final recommendation July 1 on the revised project scope and budget. The Metropolitan Council is to take action July 8 on a revised scope and budget.
“These are difficult decisions but all communities along the line are showing good faith and a willingness to compromise,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck. “Our final decision will seek to meet the budget target, keep projected ridership around 30,000 daily, and maintain consensus about the reductions being equitable to the five communities. I am optimistic that these objectives can be achieved.”
As currently planned, the line runs nearly 16 miles from downtown Minneapolis to Mitchell Station in Eden Prairie and has 17 stations.
In late April, the project office released an analysis that showed soil test results and project delays had increased the cost of the light rail project to $1.994 billion, a $341 million increase. See April 27 news release.
In May, the Corridor Management Committee agreed that at least one or more stations would need to be eliminated at the western end of the line to get back within the approved $1.653 billion budget while maintaining the project’s competitiveness for federal funding. See June 9 news release.
Dropping Mitchell Station, the westernmost, was a necessary first step. Making Golden Triangle the westernmost station was deemed too draconian and making Southwest Station the westernmost station didn’t cut enough, the committee said. The committee focused on two possible Town Center Station locations for the westernmost station. They were the current proposed site near the water tower or an alternate site near Flying Cloud Drive. The Flying Cloud Drive alternative is not being studied further because it would not allow tracks to be extended west.
On June 24, project staff introduced a third possible Town Center Station location at Eden Road, which is 750 feet east of the current Town Center location and would cost $19 million less.
If the Town Center Station at the Eden Road site is selected as the preferred cost-cutting option, the Corridor Management Committee heard that up to $35 million of elements could be added back into the project and still stay within the $1.653 billion budget.