SLRT’s Contractor Disagrees with OLA’s Report

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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Workers lay rail at a site that is part of the Southwest Light Rail project.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Southwest Light Rail project’s contractor responded to the report given by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.

A couple weeks ago, RT&S wrote about the audits on the Met Council over Southwest Light Rail project delays and over-spending. The Green Line Extension project is slated to add “14.5 miles to the existing METRO Green Line, which connects downtown Minneapolis, downtown Saint Paul, and places in between.”

Recently, the Star Tribune has reported on the contractor on the project firing back on the audit. The contractor, Lunda/C.S. McCrossan Joint Venture (LMJV), says that the “state watchdog agency probing the troubled project has ignored critical issues with its design,” and that “the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) lacks the necessary expertise to criticize or offer a legal opinion on the way the 14.5-mile line has been constructed.”

On July 10th, CEO of Lunda Construction Company, Dennis Behnke, wrote a letter to Judy Randall, the Legislative Auditor. In it, he wrote that if the Met Council had “followed recommendations recently shared by the Legislative Auditor, the opening of the line would have been ‘pushed out further by years,’ cost ‘significantly more’ and perhaps faced ‘very bad litigation’.”

Dennis Behnke told the Star tribune that Lunda Construction Company “was given a poorly prepared set of plans” to build the SRT project and that it was “subject to an unprecedented level of change.”

While Judy Randall did not comment on the letter from Behnke, “she stands by the OLA’s work.” Previously, the Office of the Legislative Auditor “released a review claiming the Met Council failed to effectively enforce the main contract with LMJV for overseeing construction of the line.” Randall also wrote in the review that the blueprint for the “enormously complicated” project was “of poor quality, incomplete, and contained major elements that were not fully developed or thought out.”

Consultants from Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Operations, and Management (AECOM) are responsible for the “overall design and engineering work” and were not available for comment.

According to Met Council, the project has seen at least 1,000 change orders and has “attributed most of Southwest’s issues to squeezing a tunnel in [the] narrow Kenilworth corridor” in conjunction with the installation of a crash wall between freight and light rail trains and a station in Eden Prairie. Randall’s report recommended Met Council to “tighten its practices” with these change orders.

The LMJV claims the OLA’s review does not fully grasp the “difficulty of building a $800 million project in less than four years” with many design plan changes.

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