Southwest Light Rail Tab Tops $2B, Some Leadership Wants Out

May 18, 2018 06:31 AM

Bringing light rail service to St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka  and Eden Prairie just got more expensive.

The 14.5-mile Green Line extension is now likely to cost an extra $145 million, according to Hennepin County officials. This is largely due to increased commodity prices, a tight labor market and delays. It brings the Southwest Light Rail project's bottom line to $2 billion.


At least, for now.

"It's not going to be $2 billion," Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson said Thursday morning. "It'll be 2.2 or 2.4, who knows?"

RELATED: Work Begins in St. Louis Park Ahead of SWLRT Extension

His comments came during a county briefing, where frustration started to show.

"To me this has become the most important thing the county is doing in some people's minds and we just have to move forward no matter what happens, and I think it's time to stop," Johnson said.

Johnson noted the project's new price tag has increased dramatically from an estimated $1.25 billion in 2011.

"I am not even slightly convinced that we're done. I think it will continue to rise," he said after the briefing, adding that Hennepin County taxpayers may have to foot the bill.

RELATED: Met Council Chair: Reject Current SWLRT Construction Bids, Reopen Process 

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin countered, saying delays and cost fluctuations are typical of a project this size and adding that what taxpayers will get in return is worth the cost.

"This project is still needed. It will still provide much-needed transportation infrastructure for the next 100 years," he said. "And it's gonna make our economy better and more competitive."

No final decisions were made Thursday. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the increased budget at the end of the month.

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Josh Rosenthal

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