A light-rail station near the Eden Prairie Center mall, which was deferred two years ago due to budget cuts, may be added back to the Southwest LRT project.
The Metropolitan Council is in the early stages of designing the $7.7 million Town Center station, which is planned for the heart of the southwestern suburb’s commercial district.
Last month, the Eden Prairie City Council approved an agreement with the Met Council to begin designing the station. The city is responsible for paying an estimated $499,713 to design the facility.
The 14.5-mile Southwest project, an extension of the existing Green Line, would connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie and end at the suburb’s SouthWest Transit station.
The Town Center station was deferred in 2015 after Southwest’s budget ballooned to nearly $2 billion, prompting transit planners to make some cuts.
All told, 15 new stations are planned for the line, which would also serve St. Louis Park, Hopkins, and Minnetonka once passenger service begins in 2021.
In January, the Met Council received $6.1 million in federal funding to build the Town Center station, but the agreement calls for a 20 percent matching grant from Eden Prairie to help with construction costs.
The city will work with the Met Council and Hennepin County “to obtain their financial assistance” in covering the match, according to project documents.
“This area is really Eden Prairie’s downtown area; to not have a station there would have been a huge missed opportunity,” said David Lindahl, the city’s economic development manager.
The news was applauded by officials at Eden Prairie Center, the nearby 1.3-million-square-foot mall. The station would “further enhance this community” and may help attract employees and shoppers who don’t have a car, said spokeswoman Shannon McNamara.
The mall recently underwent a “multimillion-dollar upgrade” at its 18-screen movie theater, opened a new Crave American Kitchen and Sushi restaurant, and announced the addition of a Scheels sporting goods store in the spot formerly occupied by Sears.
To make the new station happen, Eden Prairie must acquire the right of way to extend a nearby road. Then, a change order must be negotiated with the Met Council’s contractors before the station and road is officially added to the project, said Metro Transit spokeswoman Laura Baenen.
In 2015, costs of the controversial LRT line increased to nearly $2 billion after planners encountered poor ground conditions along its route, contaminated soil in St. Louis Park and Hopkins, and higher-than-expected land acquisition costs.
About $250 million was cut from the project, a process that involved deferring the Town Center station and eliminating the Mitchell Road stop in Eden Prairie altogether.
The project’s price tag is now close to $1.9 billion, due in part to legislative delays in funding and station access improvements, according to the Met Council.
Half of the project’s total cost is supposed to be covered by the federal government. However, full funding from the Federal Transit Administration for Southwest and other transit projects nationwide were not included in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.
It’s not unusual for stations to be added to LRT projects either before or after the light-rail line begins service.
The Hamline, Victoria and Western stations on the Green Line, which connects the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, were added to the original plan before the line opened in 2014.
The 28th Avenue and Mall of America stations on the Blue Line opened in 2005, about a year after the state’s first light-rail line began service. And the Target Field and American Boulevard stations were added in 2009, five years after the Blue Line opened.