Minn. Senate Transportation Chair Dibble Supports Change of Responsibility From Met Council to MnDOT

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
image description
Photo: metrocouncil.org

MINNEAPOLIS – After rising costs and construction delays, Senate Transportation Chair Scott Dibble argues the MnDOT should oversee future light rail projects as opposed to the Met Council.

Due to frustration over the handling of the Southwest Light Rail, Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that would move responsibility over future light rail projects from the Metropolitan Council to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. A report from KSTP shows Senate Transportation Chair Scott Dibble DFL-Minneapolis, supported the bill at a committee hearing. 

During the hearing, Chair Dibble “blasted” the Met Council for the continually-rising project costs and delays of the Southwest Light Rail. RT&S reported on January 12th that the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project had a revised budget of $2.86 billion, up from the original $2 billion. It was also expected to be operational in 2018. On January 24th, RT&S reported Hennepin County Board Commissioner Kevin Anderson voted against a $100 million increase in funding, stating the increase was “too much of a financial burden on the county. . . Hennepin County has paid its obligation. It feels like it’s another year, another $100 million.” The project is now slated to begin service in 2027, 9 years after the original estimated year.

On February 1stRT&S reported that the former SWLRT project controls manager Michael Janish had filed a lawsuit against Met Council alleging retaliation after he “flagged potential illegal cost manipulation by the Metropolitan Council.” It is clear there have been many issues plaguing the SWLRT project and the Met Council. 

As part of his reasoning, Chair Dibble pointed to a report from 5 INVESTIGATES which reportedly revealed that a new section of light rail was laid a too close to an existing freight rai line. Dibble stated “It’s just another piece of evidence that this agency is not well suited to manage and oversee this construction . . . It’s not some grand sweeping thing that happened all at once. It’s death by a thousand pinpricks.”

At the committee hearing, the Met Council did not testify, but MnDOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger thanked Dibble but said moving large light rail and bus rapid transit projects to MnDOT would be costly (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars). In addition, Daubenberger said the MnDOT would have to hire more employees. 

MnDOT Commissioner Daubenberger said, “MnDOT continues to be challenged in filling positions in construction . . . We have more open positions than applicants and we have difficulty competing with the Met Council and local agencies for construction employees.” Now, state lawmakers will consider whether or not they will include Dibble’s proposal later this month as part of a larger omnibus bill.

Tags: , , , , , ,