There was quite a bit of activity related to the South West Light Rail Transit project this year. Earlier this summer, the Southwest Project Office (SPO) of the Metropolitan Council completed the preliminary engineering phase of the project. This then culminated with the cities of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis and Hennepin County passing resolutions granting municipal consent for the project. Now that the municipal consent process has been completed, the SPO is moving forward into the final design stage of the project.
While the preliminary engineering phase of design focused mostly on light rail track alignment and station locations, the final design phase will concentrate on details such as station architecture, the incorporation of public art, streetscape and landscape elements, park and ride facilities, road configuration and bridge design. The final design will also address findings from the Final Environmental Impact Statement which considers impacts related to noise, vibration, wetlands, cultural resources and other environmental issues.
The SPO anticipates having the final design completed by the end of 2015. There will be a number of opportunities for the public to provide critical input throughout final design. There will also be a continuation of the Community Advisory, Business Advisory and Corridor Management Committees, which work to address issues that arise during design.
Once final design is complete the Federal Transit Administration will need to authorize the project to move into the construction phase. This is done through an official Record of Decision. If granted, construction would begin in 2016 and continue through 2018. Light rail service would then begin in 2019 as an extension of the Green Line currently running between Minneapolis and St. Paul. When complete the extension of the Green Line will be a 16-mile route with 17 stations, five of which will be located in Eden Prairie.
The total project budget is $1.65-billion, with 50 percent of the total cost provided by the Federal Transit Administration, and the remaining 50 percent coming from a combination of county and state funds. By 2030, the Green Line Extension is projected to reach 21 percent of the region’s jobs and will have 34,000 boardings per weekday.