Today, Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff, Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison, Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority Chair Peter McLaughlin, and Twin Cities & Western Railroad President Mark Wegner issued the following joint statement:
“We are pleased to announce that the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, and Twin Cities & Western Railroad have tentatively reached resolution of the remaining issues resulting from the colocation of freight rail and light rail in the Kenilworth Corridor and Bass Lake Spur. The resolution will be presented to the relevant boards at their upcoming July meetings for approval.”
The agreements will go before the Hennepin County Board, Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, and the Metropolitan Council this week for consideration.
Once the governing bodies approve and finalize the arrangement with TC&W, they are hopeful that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) will issue a favorable ruling. Given the time it will take to finalize the agreement with TC&W and allow for sufficient review by the STB, the decision from the STB will be later than originally requested.
In light of these schedule implications, Council Chair Tchourumoff also announced that the Council has asked bidders on the Southwest LRT civil construction contract to extend their bid validity another 60 days. Bids are currently set to expire on August 1st. Bidders are provided 10 business days to respond to the Council’s request.
To better position the project to receive a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Chair Tchourumoff requested that the FTA cease consideration of the Council’s current application and said the Council will resubmit an application after the TC&W agreement is finalized. A resubmission that includes an executed agreement with TC&W positions the project for an LONP, and also for a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) in 2019. An LONP allows the project to begin construction prior to the FFGA, using “local” funds. Costs incurred under an LONP will be matched by federal funds if the project obtains an FFGA.
“This region expects almost a million more people between 2010 and 2040. To accommodate such growth, we must build Southwest LRT, which is critical to the economic health and mobility of our region. The continued ability of this project to overcome significant challenges, including reaching agreements to share rail corridors with three different freight rail companies, is no small feat. This important project continues to move forward because of our partnership with Hennepin County and the commitment of so many local officials, project staff, and residents to see it become a reality,” said Council Chair Tchourumoff.
Once completed, the 14.5-mile transit line will connect people with nearly a quarter million jobs accessible along the line in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie. Businesses large and small and the State and local Chambers of Commerce have expressed support for the line, citing the growing region and need to attract and retain talent. The construction of the line will create 7,500 jobs, pumping $350 million in payroll back to communities across the state.