After costs for materials and labor surged in recent months, the Metropolitan Council on Wednesday approved a new budget of just over $2 billion for the Southwest Corridor light-rail project.
On Thursday, Hennepin County will consider the new budget, which reflects an increase of $204 million. The county is expected to pay for the increase largely through a half-cent sales tax that is set aside for transportation purposes.
The 14.5-mile line is slated to run from downtown Minneapolis through St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, with service beginning in 2023. Officials attribute the cost increase to delays related to construction bids and negotiations with BNSF Railway that resulted in an unexpected $20 million crash-protection wall to separate light rail and freight trains west of Target Field.
Members of the regional planning body voted unanimously to increase the project’s budget. Some cutbacks were made, particularly at the operations and maintenance facility planned for Hopkins.
Met Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff praised the Southwest light-rail staff for cutting costs while “maintaining the benefit and integrity of the project.”
The council hopes to win $929 million in federal funding, with local sources bridging the financial gap. The council hopes to award construction bids by Aug. 1.