Cloth-covered seats on Metro Transit light-rail trains could be replaced with plastic ones by the end of the year.

The Metropolitan Council, which oversees the transit agency, is expected to consider a $1.8 million contract with Michigan-based Visual Productions Group Inc. to replace seats on both Green and Blue Line trains at its March 11 meeting. The council’s Transportation Committee approved the contract on Monday, despite concerns from some committee members that the company was the sole bidder.

Metro Transit opted for plastic seats after the number of “biohazard” incidents involving cloth seats increased by 48%, according to Jay Wesely, project manager of light-rail vehicle maintenance. This resulted in more than 1,600 labor hours devoted to cleaning close to 3,900 seats in 2019, he said. The process of cleaning the cloth seats is time-consuming and expensive, Wesely noted.

Seats are sometimes soiled with mud from boots, spilled coffee or biohazards such as bodily fluids.

Plastic seats have been tested on six Blue Line trains over the past year, and customer feedback was positive, Wesely told the committee Monday. All told, some 13,408 seat pieces — backs and bottoms — will be installed.

“Plastic seats may [make it] easier for customers to determine what might be on their seat,” Wesely said. Plus, passengers have the option of wiping down the seats before sitting on them, giving them “added peace of mind,” he said.

Metro Transit expected the expense of the seat replacement project to be between about $1 million and $2.2 million.

“There’s been an issue on our trains over the cleanliness of our seats, plus they’re aging and it’s costly,” said Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra. “I feel comfortable with the bid. We’re anxious to get them installed.”

Plastic seats are expected to save Metro Transit $215,000 a year in cleaning costs.