The first two trains for the $2 billion Southwest light-rail project arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday morning and will soon undergo extensive testing before the metro’s third LRT line begins service in 2023.
The Metropolitan Council, which is building Southwest, awarded Siemens a $118 million contract in fall 2016 for 27 LRT vehicles. Siemens is a major manufacturer of light-rail vehicles for transit systems throughout North America.
Southwest, a 14.5-mile extension of the Green Line, will link downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie, with stops in St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka.
The new Southwest vehicles feature a center car that will be more accessible to people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs and walkers, as well as passengers with strollers, because the seats will face one another, according to Southwest spokesman Trevor Roy.
In addition, the trains will feature plastic seats, as opposed to cloth seats originally used in Blue and Green line trains. The council recently awarded a $1.8 million contract to a Michigan company to convert existing train seats to plastic because they’re easier to clean.
The Southwest train cars also feature low-sounding bells and ergonomic improvements for operators.
Manufactured by Siemens in Sacramento, Calif., the vehicles arrived by freight rail and are now parked at Metro Transit’s operations and maintenance facility on Franklin Avenue, just off the existing Blue Line route.
Now shrink-wrapped, the trains still need some assembly before they go through a testing regime, first along existing light-rail routes and then for Southwest once construction is completed, Roy said. After the cars pass muster, they will be ready for passengers.
Additional cars will arrive once they are manufactured.