Ground broken on Southwest Light Rail project

November 30, 2018 08:54 PM

More than 100 people gathered Friday in Hopkins to take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Southwest Light Rail project.

The 14.5-mile line, which will connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, cleared two key hurdles earlier this month. First, the Federal Transit Administration granted a Letter of No Prejudice to the project. Then, the Metropolitan Council approved the construction contract.

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RELATED: Met Council approves Southwest Light Rail Construction contract

According to a release from the Metropolitan Council, the $2.003 billion project will be the largest in state history. It is expected to create 7,500 construction jobs.

“You have to hang with this stuff or it doesn’t happen,” said Peter McLaughlin, a Hennepin County commissioner. “There is always a reason to say no. There’s always a reason to give up and we didn't do that. We’re making a giant leap forward today.”

The ceremony was held at the site of a future rail support facility.

“It will help open doors to economic opportunity for so many by eliminating the mobility barrier that they face in accessing these thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Sen. Tina Smith also made remarks at the ceremony, as did a number of other federal, state and county officials.

“Already we have seen almost half a billion dollars in economic development happen in anticipation of this project,” said Smith. “This kind of investment that we do together as a community, benefits the entire community.”

RELATED: Southwest Light Rail project gets key federal approval

Project director Jim Alexander told us they are still finalizing the contract with Lunda/C.S. McCrossan.

“It’s a big project with all of the logistics,” said Alexander. “It's probably going to be towards the end of the first quarter 2019 before we actually start turning dirt.”

They hope to have trains on the track by 2023.

Nearly half of the project is expected to be paid for by the federal government. Alexander told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they are still working out the FTA grant.

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