The Met Council today approved two firms for engineering and design work on the planned Southwest Light Rail line.
The council voted to award two contracts of nearly $17 million each to North Carolina-based Kimley-Horn & Associates and Los Angeles-based AECOM.
AECOM will design the western part of the line, beginning in Eden Prairie and running through Minnetonka. Kimley-Horn will design the eastern half, which includes Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis.
The council previously sought one contractor to design the entire line. That plan was scrapped over concerns about front-runner URS Corp, which designed the failed Sabo Bridge in Minneapolis.
Met Council Chair Sue Haigh says the Council plans to work closely with cities along the line as preliminary engineering moves ahead.
"We have learned a great deal about community engagement in all aspects of our work," Haigh said. "I think we have a really good community engagement process set up and I think that it will be very very well received and I think to date it has been."
One part of the planned route has been controversial. Some residents of St. Louis Park are concerned about a section of an existing railroad line that will have more and longer freight trains redirected to it to make way for light rail.
Haigh said the firms are expected to begin preliminary engineering work to figure out where to locate stations and other facilities. They will also weigh whether to run the LRT along existing freight rail or to relocate the freight rail traffic.
"This is, I think, a top priority project for the region and there is a lot of support for this project. I think that it will compete well along with other projects that will be seeking bonding funds for this next legislative session," Haigh said.
A third contract was also issued for an engineering firm to review the line's design.
The project still needs $118 million over the next two years to continue.