Southwest Light Rail Gets Green Light for Construction

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Light Rail stops for passengers near U.S Bank Stadium. (Preya Samsundar/Alpha News)

MINNEAPOLIS — Southwest Light Rail will begin construction, despite a decision by the federal government to rescind federal funds.

MPR reports that the new Met Council Chair, Alene Tchourumoff, plans to start construction on the newest addition to Minnesota’s light rail enterprise by 2019.

In March, Alpha News reported the Southwest Light Rail’s future was in danger after President Donald Trump announced his budget proposal, including millions of dollars in cuts from the transportation department. This would have potentially eliminated the $1.5 billion in federal funding promised to Minnesota to build Southwest Light Rail, but Trump’s plan was delayed by Republicans in Congress just months later.

However, the dissolution of the Counties Transit Improvement Board in May left Hennepin County footing a $289 million bill for their share of Southwest Light Rail, approximately $103.5 million more than initially projected. As Alpha News reported, the dissolution leaves the additional burden on Hennepin County taxpayers who will see a half-cent increase in their local sales tax.

This does not include additional costs incurred as a result of legislation passed barring the state from funding the light rail project – a cost that Hennepin County has readily picked up.

The nearly 15 mile light rail extension that plans to connect wealthy western suburbs to the Twin Cities is still $900 million short, but that is not stopping Tchourumoff from moving forward with the plan.

Though Tchourumoff has told MPR that construction will not start for more than a year, cities impacted by the new Southwest Light Rail line have approved designs to begin construction on rail stations.

In July, Eden Prairie News reported on an affirmative decision by the local city council to approve a design for the Town Center Station, costing Eden Prairie taxpayers nearly $500,000. The Eden Prairie News notes a decision by the Met Council in 2015 to delay construction on the project until funding could be determined.

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