The project's new cost estimate is $1.56 billion, up from the earlier $1.25 billion estimate that did not include any cost to address the location of freight rail in the corridor. In 2011, the Federal Transit Administration directed the Metropolitan Council to study options to keep freight rail in the LRT route through the Kenilworth neighborhood of Minneapolis, in addition to studying how to reroute freight trains to St. Louis Park, adding the cost of dealing with freight rail to the LRT project.
"This really became two projects in one: build a light-rail line and include the cost of any freight rail adjustments," said Mark Fuhrmann, who leads LRT project development for the Metropolitan Council. "With the recommendation to put light rail in shallow tunnels, no homes or businesses will be acquired and the Kenilworth Trail will stay within the corridor and be preserved for the long term. The shallow tunnel option is the best option because it ensures conditions in the Kenilworth neighborhood will be the most similar to existing conditions today."
Members of the Corridor Management Committee and the Metropolitan Council will review the draft staff recommendations and provide feedback before staff finalize their recommendation and the council acts on October 9.
If approved by the council, project staffers plan to submit LRT plans in mid-October to the five cities and Hennepin County for municipal consent by late 2013. The timetable is needed to keep the project on schedule to finish engineering designs in 2014 so initial construction can begin in 2015 and the line can begin service by the end of 2018.