Gov. Mark Dayton issued this statement regarding the Southwest light rail project's rising cost estimate:

“I was shocked and appalled to learn last Friday that the staff at the Metropolitan Council had increased its estimate of the cost of the Southwest Line Rail Transit line by $341 million to $1.994 billion. I commend Chair Duininck for bringing this matter to my attention soon after learning of it from the project’s staff. We agreed last Friday afternoon that it needed to be disclosed quickly to the public.

“The continuing escalation of the costs to design and build this line raise[s] serious questions about its viability and affordability. The full Board of the Metropolitan Council should quickly review other options for providing much-needed public transit to this region of the metro area. Their costs, timelines, and quality of service need to be compared with those of the SWLRT before deciding how to proceed. All of them must also be compared with the direct and indirect costs of providing no major public transit system for that rapidly growing part of the metro region.

“The Board must also make a thorough evaluation of the capabilities and competencies of the Metropolitan Council staff to manage a project of this magnitude. I certainly will not recommend that any additional public money be committed to the project until I am satisfied that its cost can be justified and properly managed.

“I also want to express my complete confidence in the Board of the Metropolitan Council, which I have just appointed, and, especially, in its new Chair, Adam Duininck. This incident should certainly eliminate any doubt of the need for a full-time Board Chair to exercise proper leadership for the organization and oversight over its operations. I ask the Senate to confirm his appointment and the entire legislature to give him the chance to identify and correct the organization’s deficiencies.

“Finally, I again urge both the House and the Senate to pass a strong transportation bill that I can sign into law in this Session. In addition to a decade of additional funding for highway, road, and bridge repairs and improvements and for rail safety, it must provide additional funds for public transit in both Greater Minnesota and the Metropolitan Area. Whether the Southwest Light Rail Transit line or some alternative for the southwest metro, modern and sufficient public transit throughout the metropolitan region will be essential to its continued social vitality and economic growth.”