The Southwest Light Rail Transit line in Minnesota took a major step forward to opening in 2018 when the Metropolitan Council authorized preliminary engineering contracts with Kimley-Horn and AECOM.
Kimley-Horn and AECOM will begin the preliminary engineering work within the coming weeks on the region’s third light-rail line. The line will support one of the largest business/employment corridors in the state by serving 210,000 jobs the day it opens, as well as serving an anticipated 60,000 additional jobs that will be created in the corridor by 2030.
The council voted to authorize its regional administrator to execute a contract up to $16.8 million with Kimley-Horn for the eastern half of the 15-mile line and a contract of up to $16.8 million with AECOM for the line’s western half.
Preliminary engineering will help the council decide exactly where stations should be built, whether to build next to existing freight rail traffic or relocate the freight rail traffic, where to locate park and rides and an operation and maintenance facility and whether to design crossings at grade or build bridges or tunnels for the tracks. The council will hire a different engineering firm to provide independent peer review of the preliminary engineering from both companies.
Construction is expected to begin in 2015 on the 15-mile line linking downtown Minneapolis with the southwestern suburban cities of St. Louis and downtown Minneapolis with the southwestern suburban cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie and passing in close proximity to Edina. When the line opens in 2018, it would connect with the Central Corridor (Green Line) at Target Field Station, meaning riders boarding in Eden Prairie could ride to downtown St. Paul without changing trains. At Target Field Station, riders would be able to transfer to Hiawatha trains (Blue Line) headed for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Mall of America or Northstar commuter rail trains headed 40 miles north to Big Lake.
The cost of the $1.25-billion line will be divided among contributions from federal (50 percent) and local funders Counties Transit Improvement Board (30 percent), Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (10 percent) and the state of Minnesota (10 percent).