URS recommended for Southwest LRT

Proposed SWLRT route
The proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit route could run along the existing line at Excelsior Blvd. just east of Highway 169 in Hopkins, Minn.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

An engineering firm that consulted on the Interstate 35W bridge before it collapsed is the top choice to receive a $94 million contract on the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail project.

San Francisco-based URS Corp. was one of two global transportation firms competing for the contract. Staff of the Metropolitan Council have recommended that URS be chosen to work on the 15-mile light rail project, which would connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie and other southwestern suburbs.

The Met Council's transportation committee will vote Monday on whether to forward the staff's URS recommendation to the full council.

Gov. Mark Dayton has expressed concerns in the past about the state contracting with URS because of its involvement with the I-35W bridge. But Met Council Chair Sue Haigh says the council investigated URS and found the firm to be well-qualified and compliant with the highest professional engineering standards.

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If the contract is approved, URS will begin preliminary engineering on the project to decide various technical details such as where to put tracks and stations, and where the rail line will cross highways.

Once engineering is complete, the project moves into final design, and then into construction -- which is slated to begin in 2015 and last three years.

URS would continue to consult on the project once heavy construction begins. Environmental review of the line is already underway.

Met Council officials say a series of community meetings on the LRT plans will kick off later this summer.