As expected, the Metropolitan Council on Wednesday rejected all four bids it received to build the $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail line, adding time and uncertainty to the project.
Now, the regional planning body must retool its bid package in coming weeks to fit within its budget, which the council has declined to make public.
Bids from four construction partnerships for the 14.5-mile line linking downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie ranged from $797 million to $1.08 billion. All four came in over the mysterious budget target, and three of the four were found to be “nonresponsive.”
One member of the council, Harry Melander, voted against delaying the bids, and others expressed weariness about the current conundrum.
“I’m having a really difficult time with how this project is delayed and the costs it has incurred,” said Melander, president of the Minnesota State Building & Construction Trades Council.
But Council Member Jennifer Munt said, “Without perseverance, no light rail line would exist today.”
Last week, Met Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff recommended that the bids be rejected. Wednesday’s action began a new timeline for the project where a modified bid package will be advertised in October and awarded next March. This means the line would open in 2022 instead of 2021.
The move also delays the council’s application for a $929 million matching grant from the Federal Transit Administration. And it adds an estimated $12 million to $16 million in cost to the overall budget.
Dean Thomson, an attorney for the Ames Kraemer partnership that submitted the lowest bid, said Wednesday that the council should have worked with all the bidders to see if their bids could be retooled before rejecting them. “That would have made more sense, then the council could have determined what the bidders have to say,” he said.
Because the budget for the project has not been revealed to the public, Thomson said, “this does hamper transparency and the accountability of the council.”