Met Council plans to begin Southwest light rail construction next year

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A map shows the planned construction schedule for Southwest Light Rail Transit. (Submitted map)

A map shows the planned construction schedule for Southwest Light Rail Transit. (Submitted map)

After years of uncertainty about the future of Southwest Light Rail Transit, the Metropolitan Council is making plans to begin construction on the project next year.

“If people haven’t been following every twist and turn, they might think, oh, it’s never going to happen,” said Laura Baenen, communications manager for the Southwest and Blue Line Extension light rail projects. “But we’re here to tell you it is, and we want you to know we are going to keep you informed about what to expect during construction.”

A meeting Gov. Mark Dayton convened led to a plan for the Met Council, Counties Transit Improvement Board and Hennepin County to pick up more of the funding after the Legislature declined to provide more state dollars than had been committed previously to the nearly $1.9 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit line.

“The meeting Gov. Dayton held in August was really a pivot point for getting action moving on the project,” said Jim Alexander, acting project director.

With approvals from the Met Council, transit board and county, all of the local share of funding has been committed. Project planners expect the federal government to cover half of the line’s costs.

During a Nov. 2 Corridor Management Committee meeting at St. Louis Park City Hall, Alexander told leaders representing cities along the line to expect major construction work to begin in the second half of 2017 – likely late in the summer or early fall. However, some work to move utilities could begin sooner.

Heavy construction would take place into 2020, according to the project’s time line, with service beginning for riders in 2021.

Continue reading this Sun Sailor story.

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