Southwest light rail: Work halted near Minneapolis condo tower to probe cracks

Commuter at SouthWest Station
SouthWest Station in Eden Prairie, Minn., would be one stop on the Southwest Light Rail Transit line.
Peter Cox | MPR News 2015

Cracks in a building next to the Southwest Corridor light rail project have dealt another blow to the beleaguered transit line.

Residents of the Cedar Isles condominiums in Minneapolis say cracks have appeared on eight separate floors of the building, right beside the construction site where crews are building a tunnel to accommodate the trains planned to run 14 ½ miles from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. 

A letter to the condominium association from the Metropolitan Council, which is building the rail line, says that work has halted next to the building and crack monitors have been installed in lobbies and floors in four different areas of the building, at 3151 Dean Court.

It appears to address the portion of the building nearest the Kenilworth Trail, a nearly century-old grain silo complex that was converted into housing more than 30 years ago. 

The letter says the Cedar Isles Condominium Association and the project construction office “have evaluated both the 3145 and 3151 buildings and deemed the buildings safe for residential occupation.” 

The letter doesn’t directly link the damage to work on the light rail line but says an “investigation is underway by the project office’s structural engineering consultant to better understand the extent of the cracking. This work includes targeted ceiling removals, inspection, and restoration of the affected areas where cracks are present.” 

The building has been the focus of opposition to the plan to route the light rail line between Cedar Lake and Bde Maka Ska, including a tunnel, as well as a crash wall between the light rail and freight rail tracks in the area. A number of residents have complained the work was too close to their homes. 

The halt is the latest recent complication for the project. Planners recently announced the original $2 billion cost will rise to as much as $2.75 billion and won’t be running until 2027, years after its projected start. The Metropolitan Council approved a settlement with the construction contractors last month. 

The Metropolitan Council says the work stoppage is temporary for now, although some equipment maintenance is expected to continue. The Council is planning to address the cracks and work on the line at a homeowners’ forum scheduled for the evening of Feb. 15.