Condo owners report worsening damage along ‘pinch point’ for light rail construction

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As scrutiny of the Southwest Light Rail project intensifies, homeowners who live just steps away from a pinch point on the line in Minneapolis say problems at their condominium buildings are only getting worse.

Work to build a train tunnel stopped last year after cracks first appeared at the Cedar Isles condos. 

5 INVESTIGATES previously uncovered evidence of early warnings about potential problems along the Kenilworth corridor now jeopardizing the largest civil construction project in Minnesota history.

Southwest Light Rail, also known as the Green Line extension, has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, pushing the estimated price tag to more than $2.7 billion.

A long-awaited report on those issues is expected to be released by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor early Wednesday and is expected to include more details about problems near the condos.

Last summer, engineers minimized the impact of construction on the damage and said it was safe to resume, but condo owners such as Russ Palma publicly voiced concerns that there would be more damage.

Now Palma says his prediction is borne out by growing cracks throughout the property.

“They’re going to get to the point where the damage is going to be something really significant,” Palma said.

Inside the recently renovated parking garage at Cedar Isles, Palma showed 5 INVESTIGATES door frames that had shifted out of plumb, including one fire exit where a new door no longer shuts.

Water is seeping through a wall in the garage that borders light rail construction just inches away.

“Now we have the puddles which are here all the time,” Palma said. “I think the basic answer is, ‘it’ll be better once it’s all done.’”

The 14.5-mile line to Eden Prairie is not expected to be operational until 2027.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Council said it “participates in weekly coordination meetings” with the Cedar Isles Condo Association (CICA) and that the association “has not filed a construction claim related to any new damage.”

Both sides are still in mediation to resolve disputes about damage, repair costs, and property values. Palma says both sides have agreed not to make public the details of those discussions.

“It’s not just buildings that bothers me. There’s a lot of damage being done to people’s lives,” Palma said. “I’m hopeful that going forward, everyone will be paying more attention because it’s everybody’s tax dollars.”

Editor’s Note: This story initially listed an incorrect estimate for the total cost of the project.