Costs Climb Higher For Southwest Light-Rail Line

The cost of the proposed light-rail line could balloon from $1.25 billion to nearly $1.7 billion, depending on which option planners select for dealing with existing freight rail.

A major sticking point in the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line has been how to deal with existing freight-train traffic.

And while several options for mitigating the conflict were outlined in May, it wasn’t until Wednesday that the Metropolitan Council disclosed the estimated cost for each alternative.

New estimates show that the project’s price tag could grow by as much as a startling 33 percent, according to a Star Tribune report. The estimated cost could balloon from $1.25 billion to nearly $1.7 billion if planners select one of the proposed options, the Minneapolis newspaper reported.

Burying the light-rail line in a tunnel below existing freight lines would likely appease concerned homeowners, but it would also cost the most. The cheapest option, which would still cost an estimated $1.37 billion, would have the freight trains run alongside light-rail trains in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Minneapolis, while bike and walking trails would be relocated, according the Star Tribune.

Meanwhile, rerouting the freight from Minneapolis to berms in St. Louis Park would cost up to $1.55 billion, and that proposal drew opposition from St. Louis Park, the newspaper reported.

Construction of the line, which would connect downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, is slated to begin in 2015. But the federal government, which is expected to foot half of the bill, has insisted that local entities resolve the dispute over the re-location of existing freight trains before proceeding.

Twin Cities Business' Executive Editor Adam Platt provided an in-depth look at the ongoing dispute in the magazine’s April cover story, exploring whether the staredown between The Twin Cities & Western Railroad and public officials could potentially derail the massive transit project. The story, which can be accessed here, provides an unprecedented look into the complex conflict.