Southwest Light Rail Transit line faces delays

A Metro Transit Green Line train moves through downtown St. Paul as heavy snow falls mid-afternoon.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News 2018

Construction delays will likely prevent the Southwest Light Rail Transit Line from opening in 2023 as scheduled, and transit planners say they don’t know when the 14.5-mile line between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis will be completed.

Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle said Thursday the $2 billion project is complex and that the delays — while unforeseen — are not surprising.

“This is the largest infrastructure project ever built in the state of Minnesota,” said Zelle. "I know this as a former MnDOT commissioner, large infrastructure projects which go through this kind of pass are complicated and run into these kinds of situations."

Zelle said poor soil conditions in a section of the Kenilworth corridor, where a quarter-mile tunnel is being constructed, require extra stabilization measures. The other delay, said Zelle, is due to the construction of a protective wall between freight and light rail tracks, which was not included in the original project.

Zelle said he doesn't know how much money the delays will cost. But he says the project's budget includes a contingency of about $200 million.

The project has experienced opposition and funding uncertainty since it was proposed. In 2014, a group of Minneapolis residents sued the Met Council to halt the project. A judge dismissed the suit in 2018. Ground was broken on the project later that year.

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