Met Council Tour Explores Challenging Southwest LRT Construction

Fifteen people donned bright orange safety vests, helmets and safety glasses on Thursday to learn about the construction of the Southwest Streetcar line at its most difficult place: the Kenilworth Corridor in Minneapolis.

The tour was one of dozens organized by the Metropolitan Council to demystify for the public the complex, multi-year construction process of the Twin Cities third tram line.

“We want people to understand how complex this project is,” said David Davies, community outreach coordinator for the regional planning organization.

Thursday’s tour explored a half-mile-long tunnel being constructed along the Kenilworth Corridor, a narrow recreation and freight passage between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles. It is the most expensive and complicated part of the 14.5 mile line between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

Southwest Project Manager Jim Alexander began by addressing “the elephant on the beach” – the current cost of the project and when the line went into service. The two are unknown at this point.

Problems with what contractors called “poor soils” in the corridor pushed up the previous price of $ 2 billion by $ 200 million. “This cost will increase, we don’t know by how much yet,” Alexander said.

The project, which is halfway through, has depleted its initial contingency fund of $ 204 million. Hennepin County has set aside an additional $ 200 million to cover costs at the request of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which is helping fund the project.

The start of passenger service depends on the progress of the tunnel. The previous start date was 2023.

“It’s the most difficult piece. It’s a bear,” Alexander said, nodding to the site. “And he’s a big bear.”

He speculated that Southwest will end up costing between $ 150 million and $ 200 million per mile, causing a woman’s breath. But, he said, other transit projects across the United States have cost more.

The project’s relations with its neighbors in the Kenilworth Corridor have been strained over the years, including an unsuccessful litigation against the Met Council which sought to shut down the project on environmental grounds. Those on Tuesday’s tour were curious but polite.

Evelyn Turner, a Kenwood resident, said she suffered her fair share of dust and noise during construction of Southwest. “It will be done someday,” she said, a little philosophically.

While Turner has said she supports light rail transport in general, she questioned its location next to the Twin Cities and Western Railroad freight trains, which will continue to operate in the corridor even after the start. light rail service.

When Southwest was in the process of planning, Turner said, Hennepin County promised freight trains would be hijacked, but that did not happen. “A lot of people are still bitter,” she said.

The most recent soil problem caused the Met Council to change its construction methods in a narrow stretch of the corridor near the Calhoun Islands condominiums. Parts of the foundation of the complex are within 6 inches of the tunnel.

Builders are erecting a secant wall – intersecting reinforced concrete piles – on the east side of the tunnel to stabilize the floors during construction, a measure intended to protect the foundations of neighboring buildings, council officials said.

Heading downtown, light rail trains will exit the tunnel to cross a bridge over the canal between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles.

“I have grandchildren, so we need to balance the disruption in our lives now for the benefit of future generations,” said Dick Adair, who lives in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

Twitter: @ByJanetMoore

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