Projections show cost of Blue Line extension would exceed cost of SWLRT project

Projections show cost of Blue Line extension would exceed cost of SWLRT project

Projections show cost of Blue Line extension would exceed cost of SWLRT project

The Metropolitan Council has released new data on the expected cost of the Blue Line Extension along with the estimated ridership the project would generate.

The Blue Line Extension is set to connect the existing Blue Line light rail 13.4 miles north to connect North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park to the regional light rail network.

Estimates show a base cost for constructing the line at $2.2 billion, but federal regulations require such projects to add contingency costs of 35% and 45%. This puts the preliminary total cost range between $2.9 billion and $3.2 billion.

By comparison, the latest projection shared by the Met Council for the Southwest Light Rail Project (SWLRT) after numerous delays and rising costs is about $2.86 billion.

RELATED: Hennepin County commissioners approve another $100 million for SWLRT

The Met Council adds that data shows the project is still eligible for federal funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program.

The news release adds the estimates are “on the lower end of comparable projects around the country in terms of relative cost.”

These projected estimates could change as they are peer-reviewed and shared with the Federal Transit Authority (FTA). Officials say updated estimates will be shared with the FTA in early 2025.

Officials say they will also complete 30% design work of the extension, during which cost and ridership estimates will be updated again, as they will be “several more times throughout the planning process.”

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Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Lunde shared the following statement:

“Light rail projects are 100-year investments. They aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. This project will provide reliable transit service for decades to come in addition to generating billions of dollars of investment in community and economic development, housing, infrastructure improvements, and more. With intention and planning, we can ensure this investment creates opportunities for communities of color in this corridor to build wealth and grow shared prosperity today and for generations to come.”

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Lunde

According to a news release from the Metropolitan Council, the Blue Line is projected to add between 11,500 to 13,000 daily rides, bringing the total number of rides to more than 30,000.

Data shared by the Met Council says ridership is up to 60% of pre-pandemic levels, with systemwide transit ridership growing 16% last year and light rail ridership rising 19%.

The process will also include a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS). After that’s published, there will be a 45-day public comment period to inform the next phase and the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement that will strategize ways to avoid, minimize and mitigate the project’s impacts.

Metropolitan Council Member Anjuli Cameron also shared a statement that partially said, “At the heart of this project is an intentional investment in communities where access to transportation and infrastructure have been historically under-resourced.”

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The project also has what the Met calls an Anti-Displacement Working group to advance specific strategies in areas that include workforce, mitigation of property impacts, community ownership and other areas.

RELATED: Doubling down on light rail expansion: Critics question cost of taking on two billion-dollar projects at the same time

About half of the projected new riders are expected to be from households that do not have a car and rely on public transit, according to the Met Council.

More information from the Met Council on the Blue Line expansion can be found here.