The Southwest Light Rail Transit project took another step forward Aug. 15 when Metropolitan Council officials unsealed four construction bids for the project.
The four bids came from joint ventures of various construction firms, given the scale of the project and variety of construction needed. The bids ranged from just under $800 million to $1.08 billion.
The 14.5-mile line, extending the Green Line from where it currently ends in Minneapolis out to Eden Prairie, will include 15 new stations, as well as a slew of bridges (both new and modified), tunnels, retaining walls and other sub-projects. The Met Council has estimated the total project cost to be $1.858 billion, making it the most expensive public works project in state history.
In detail, the bids came in at $797 million from Ames Kraemer SWLRT Joint Venture, $808 million from Lunda/C.S. McCrossan, $1.07 billion from Southwest Rail Constructors and $1.08 billion from
Southwest Transit Constructors. The Met Council is expected to choose among the bids this fall.
A major source of funding for the project, a $928.8 million grant through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program, has not yet been procured, though the Met Council anticipates that these funds will be available for the project through a Full Funding Grant Agreement by the end of the year.
If all goes according to plan, construction will begin early next year, with passenger rail service on the line becoming available in 2021.
Legislators highlight funding importance in letter to FTA
An Aug. 8 letter, signed by 73 Minnesota state representatives and senators, urged the Federal Transit Authority and federal government at large to provide the funding on which the SWLRT project depends.
“We, the undersigned legislators of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate, want to stress the importance of funding the New Starts program and future Minnesota transit projects,” begins the letter. “Throughout the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, there is broad support from local communities, citizens and businesses for the investment in these projects.”
Addressed to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, the letter goes on to espouse the importance of multi-modal transportation, eventually making a case for the federal government to retain the Capital Investment Grant Program.
“Both the Blue and Green light rail line have exceeded expectations in ridership, farebox recovery and corresponding economic development,” reads the letter, continuing on to point out that “A TwinWest Chamber survey found that 75 percent of respondents in the seven-county metro area support light rail and 79 percent of respondents support transit expansion in general.”
The letter also recognizes a previous letter sent by other legislators in opposition to the project, claiming that the document was “not an accurate portrayal of the support for the project by the local and state levels, the business community, and countless other stakeholders.”