It's still unclear how the freight rail line in Minneapolis’ Kenilworth corridor to make way for the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line.
But one determination has been made: The cost of rerouting the line will be added to the cost of the Southwest project, the Southwest LRT management committee announced at its monthly meeting Wednesday in St. Louis Park.
This change adds an estimated $70 million to $150 million to the previously estimated $1.25 billion cost.
That could make the project’s partners—the state, Hennepin County, a five-county metro board and the Federal Transit Administration—more reluctant to provide funding. But it could also help alleviate the financial burden of rerouting the freight line, as the FTA may be able to significantly offset the move’s cost.
The FTA, which is expected to pay for half the Southwest project, recently sent the Metropolitan Council a letter saying it wouldn't provide more than $100 million in any individual funding year, which means it would be paying for the project through 2020.
Mark Fuhrmann, the program director for new projects at the Met Council, said that the council would issue short-term notes that function similarly to bonds in order to bridge this gap and jump-start construction.
The Met Council is also working to educate legislators, the governor’s office and Minnesota Management and Budget about the project in order to get legislative support for the 10 percent of the cost the state is expected to provide.
Fuhrmann said the Met Council will start negotiations with the governor’s staff Monday and that plans are in the works to give legislators guided tours of the Southwest corridor.
Judd Schetnan, the government affairs director for the Met Council, said he anticipated some partisan debate. (During the Legislature’s last session, Republicans in both the state House and Senate criticized light rail—notably transportation committee head Rep. Michael Beard (R-Shakopee), who pledged before the session to stop the Southwest light rail line "in its tracks.")
But he said that within the Metro area, the project enjoys mostly bipartisan support.
“My understanding is that everybody is supportive of it until we get out aways [from the Twin Cities],” Schetnan said.
( to see all the details of the Southwest project.)