Construction on SWLRT project showing progress, leads to road closures

Progress is underway on the Southwest Light Rail project, which will connect Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. The 14.5-mile route will have 16 stops, including in Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and Hopkins.

“This is the largest civil construction project in Minnesota’s history,” said Trevor Roy, the Southwest LRT project spokesperson for the Metropolitan Council.

He said they hope to have passengers riding the light rail by 2023.

“We’re grading, earth work, we have stations that are being built, we have retaining walls that are being built, we have tunnels and bridges being constructed as well,” he said. “There is not a single mile of the alignment where there is not some sort of construction work happening right now.”

In St. Louis Park, the construction will mean a major road closure over Labor Day weekend. Highway 100 will be closed south of Highway 7 and northbound from Highway 62 to Highway 7.

“We’re doing this to reposition a freight rail bridge over Highway 100 to make room for our light rail track that will be constructed at a later date,” said Roy. “While the Highway 100 bridge repositioning is the most visible part, there’s going to be freight rail work across the corridor to shift freight rail to help with light rail construction in the future.”

Roy said they’ve been planning for this part of the project since the design stages, which were several years ago. Roy told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he understands how disruptive it will be for drivers.

“When it comes to freight rail and moving freight rail, we have to coincide that work, coordinate that work, with the freight rail companies,” he said. “As it so happens, there is a freight rail outage this weekend so they’re not going to be moving train cars up and down the corridor so this gives us an opportunity to perform this week.”

In a rare move, MnDOT allows shutdown of Hwy 100 during Labor Day holiday weekend

The road closure could pose challenges for businesses along that stretch of highway.

“It is just like cutting off our lifeline,” said Amanda Ficek, owner of Mamma’s Happy. “When it closes it will be crickets."

She’s been building her furniture business for a decade, moving into a storefront on 36th Street in St. Louis Park. Business has been up lately with more people spending time at home, she told us.

“Especially the [furniture] paint that we carry,” said Ficek. “People come from all over the Twin Cities to buy it and so they’re constantly calling throughout the day, ‘Where are you?’ ‘Off 100.’ It’s always off 100, that’s just how you give directions, how people know it’s easy to access."

She was expecting a busy holiday weekend but now worries fewer customers will come through. Still, she looks forward to the possibilities the Southwest LRT will bring.

“That’s one of those where you say ‘we can endure this’ because of what the end result is going to be,” she said. "We know that will be great for us."

For a map of highway closures related to the project, click the link here.