The Southwest LRT (Metro Green Line Extension) is an under–construction 14.5-mile (23.3 km) light rail transit corridor in Hennepin County, Minnesota, with service between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. The estimated one-way travel time from Southwest Station in Eden Prairie to Target Field Station in Minneapolis is 32 minutes. The Southwest LRT will extend through St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka along the route. Major locations on the line will include Bde Maka Ska, Cedar Lake, the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.
|Locale||Hennepin County, Minnesota|
|Termini||Southwest Station (south)|
Target Field (north)
|Daily ridership||34,000 (projection)|
|Line length||14.5 miles (23.3 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
In 1988, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) identified the Southwest transitway from Hopkins to downtown Minneapolis as a future LRT corridor.
In 2002 and 2003, the HCRRA conducted the Southwest Rail Transit Study to evaluate twelve possible light rail routes in the southwest transitway. Of the twelve routes, eight were eliminated and four were selected for further analysis: routes 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A.
On March 4, 2009, the FTA approved a $2 million study of the project, with a then-anticipated opening date in 2015. On May 26, 2010, the Metropolitan Council voted to approve the locally preferred alternative advanced by Hennepin County. The project at that point transferred to Metropolitan Council control and at the time was expected to begin service in 2018. Since receiving approval from the Metropolitan Council on May 26, 2010, the Southwest LRT joins the Bottineau LRT as an official part of the Metro Council's project list. The Metropolitan Council began design work in 2013, after the completion of the draft Environmental Impact Statement.
On May 26, 2010, the Metropolitan Council approved route 3A as the locally preferred alternative for the line. There was a protracted debate over the route choice in the years leading up to this decision, with many parties strongly opposed to the final route choice. The final choice in favor of 3A was made for several reasons, including its favorable Cost Effectiveness Index (CEI) score and its relatively lower environmental impacts.
Several possible routing variations were evaluated to determine the final routing of the line. There was local debate about the route the line would take between the Chain of Lakes and downtown Minneapolis. Routes 1A and 3A (chosen route) use the Kenilworth Corridor, a dedicated stretch of right-of-way owned by the HCRRA to be used for future rail transit. Route 3C would have the tracks run much further east through the trench used by the Midtown Greenway before turning north at Nicollet Avenue, where it would have run in a tunnel for part of the way downtown.
Kenilworth alignment (routes 1A, 3A-chosen route)
The Kenilworth Corridor was acquired by the HCRRA to preserve it for future rail transit. The Kenilworth routing would have provided shorter ride times for the majority of the line's users compared to the 3C routing. It is also less expensive to build and operate.
Supporters of a network alignment propose that a streetcar or trolley line be installed alongside the Midtown Greenway to connect the Southwest LRT line to the existing Blue Line, however this will not occur. Rather LRT will be used for the full stretch of the line. The Midtown Greenway Coalition has long supported and promoted the network alignment. The group successfully prevented the trench from being used for a busway and instead pitched the idea of the trench being used for a potential streetcar line.
Some residents living adjacent to the Kenilworth Corridor favored the 3C route because they were concerned about the noise and disturbance of the trains passing through the corridor near their homes. The Kenilworth Corridor presently contains an active freight rail line and the light rail will be in addition to this existing track. Operating the two LRT tracks adjacent to the Twin Cities & Western Railroad line (four freight trains each day) will require Metro Transit to purchase a standard $300 Million insurance policy holding the railroad harmless for any accidents caused by derailments of freight or LRT trains. The annual premium cost of this policy is approximately $1.5 Million.
Greenway/Nicollet alignment (route 3C)
Advocates of the 3C route wanted the line to directly serve Uptown and Eat Street, and feel that routing the line through the Kenilworth Corridor would be a missed opportunity for increased ridership and better transit in this area of Minneapolis.
Some Eat Street business owners were concerned that the access and traffic problems resulting from the construction period on Nicollet Avenue would severely affect their business. Engineers indicated Nicollet Avenue may have been tunneled instead of at-grade.
In early 2008, Hennepin County Medical Center acquired a city block parcel at 28th Street and Nicollet where the 3C Route would turn from the Midtown Greenway trench onto or under Nicollet Avenue. HCMC is building a clinic on the site that does not incorporate a light rail station or easement into the building. That would have prevented the 3C route from turning at this location since there is not enough space for tracks to make the minimum required turning radius.
During public input phases in 2007–2008 the final three proposed routes faced opposition by some members of two Minneapolis neighborhoods, Kenwood and Whittier. Kenwood's neighborhood organization released an official neighborhood stance against the line with Whittier's organization debating to release a stance. In Kenwood, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods, their criticism involves disruption to natural parkland and noise though the Kenilworth Corridor (which routes '1A' and '3A' would run on). The corridor is home to the Kenilworth Trail, a scenic bike and pedestrian trail that runs adjacent to a rarely used freight rail line. In Whittier, disruption to Nicollet Avenue by the '3C' route had brought concern to business owners regarding Eat Street as a business, restaurant and retail corridor of the Whittier neighborhood.
The Bryn Mawr neighborhood has favored the routes moving through the Kenilworth Corridor as it supports their redevelopment plans. Also, suburban cities have received the proposals favorably with concern over routing within their cities than opposition of the line itself. The 3A route through job centers in Eden Prairie garnered approval from its City Council. Hopkins also proposed routing the line through their downtown Main Street but will instead be routed nearby.
Funding and delays
In April 2015, the council released an updated analysis of the project, with projected costs raised by more than $300 million to $1.994 billion, largely as a result of additional sitework and ground preparation due to poor soil along the route. The expected opening date of the line was also pushed back to 2020, as a result of delays to the next draft of the Environmental Impact Statement, which was expected to be released in May 2015, more than a year after the original planned release in January 2014. To bring costs within the original budget, Metropolitan Council members proposed measures such as eliminating the Mitchell Road station in Eden Prairie or decreasing the size of the Hopkins maintenance facility.
A reduced $1.744 billion budget for the line was approved by the Metropolitan Council in July 2015. Changes from the original plan included the deletion of the Mitchell Road terminus, removal of planned station art, and the deferral of the Eden Prairie Town Center station.
On May 22, 2016, the Minnesota Legislature was unable to agree on whether or not to fund the State of Minnesota's 10% portion of the project. On August 31, 2016 the State's 10% portion ($144.5 million) was funded by Certificates of Participation by three government bodies: the Metropolitan Council ($103.5 million),the Counties Transit Improvement Board ($20.5 million) and Hennepin County ($20.5 million) to close the $144.5 million gap.
Construction bids were revealed publicly on August 15, 2017 but were rejected for being too costly. As of May 2018, the Met Council estimated the building costs to be at $2.003 billion. On November 15, 2018, the council accepted an $800 million construction bid by Lunda Construction and C.S. McCrossan.
- "Federal, state and local officials break ground on Southwest LRT". Metropolitan Council. November 30, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
- "Federal Transit Administration Propels Southwest LRT Project Forward With Approval To Enter Engineering". Metropolitan Council. 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2017-02-13.
- "Travel Demand Methodology & Forecast". Metropolotian Council. February 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
- Moylan, Martin (November 15, 2018). "Met Council approves Lunda/McCrossan's $800M bid for light rail project". MPR News. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
- Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority. "Southwest Transitway Alternatives Analysis Final Report (Chapter 1 – Intro)". Retrieved 2009-10-28.
- Blake, Laurie (March 5, 2009). "Transit Agency to Study Rail Plan". StarTribune. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
- "Southwest LRT Timeline". Southwest Transitway. Metropolitan Council. 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
- "Delays increase costs for Twin Cities light rail project". Trains Magazine. April 28, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
- "Council Approves Light Rail Along the Southwest Corridor". Metropolitan Council. May 26, 2010. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
- Dylan Thomas (May 5, 2008). "HCMC Clinic on the move". Southwest Journal. Retrieved 2008-05-07.
- Kenwood Isles Area Association (March 2007). "Kenwood Newsletter".
- Eric James (2007–2008). "Whittier Alliance, Community Meeting Minutes". Whittier Alliance.
- Jenna Ross (January 17, 2008). "Dreams sprout along southwest rail route". Star Tribune.
- Moore, Janet (May 7, 2015). "Transit board and others urge restraint in Southwest light-rail price tag". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
- Callaghan, Peter (July 9, 2015). "Met Council approves revamped Southwest LRT funding plan". MinnPost. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
- Dexter, Patty (September 7, 2016). "Boards OK plans to fill Southwest LRT funding gap". Lakeshore Weekly News. Wayzata, MN. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
- "Siemens lands $118M contract for Southwest LRT".
- Metropolitan Council. "Southwest LRT Current Projects". Metropolitan Council. Retrieved 16 Apr 2017.
- Sepic, Matt (August 16, 2017). "Southwest light rail project moves closer to a big construction contract". MPR News. Retrieved August 16, 2017.
- Nelson, Tim (September 11, 2017). "Met Council rejects all Southwest light rail bids as too costly". MPR News.
- Nelson, Tim (May 16, 2018). "Building costs push Southwest light rail price tag above $2 billion". MPR News.
- Moore, Janet (November 16, 2018). "Metropolitan Council picks contractor to build $2 billion Southwest light rail". Star Tribune. Retrieved November 26, 2018.