SW light rail costs vex some on Hennepin Co. board

Commuter at SouthWest Station
A commuter at the SouthWest Station in Eden Prairie in 2015. The station is a planned stop on the Southwest light rail line.
Peter Cox | MPR News 2015

Some Hennepin County commissioners are bristling over the latest cost increase for the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail line after getting a briefing on the project Thursday.

If the line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie is built, Hennepin County will bear the brunt of the local cost. With the overall tab now projected to be just over $2 billion, commissioner Jeff Johnson, a Republican candidate for governor, said it's time to stop approving cost increases.

"This has become the most important thing the county's doing in some people's minds, and we just have to move forward no matter what happens, and I think it's time to stop," said Johnson.

"You thought it was time to stop a long time ago," responded commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who supports the line.

"I did," said Johnson.

"I don't think you were ever ready to go forward, just for the record," said McLaughlin.

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McLaughlin said the project stands to be an important addition to the existing Twin Cities light rail network.

"This is well-connected, it's part of a system," said McLaughlin. "This is part of a long-term transportation vision that's going to fuel economic growth and keep the region moving."

Commissioner Mike Opat also questioned the costs and expressed concern about whether the federal government will fund its nearly $1 billion share of the project.

The board will decide at the end of the month whether to allow the Metropolitan Council to award construction bids for the proposed line.