It looks like more delays are in the Southwest Light Rail Transit project's future and the state's costliest public works project may get even more expensive, according to a proposed settlement with a contractor.
The Metropolitan Council, the regional body that oversees Metro Transit, will consider a settlement with Lunda McCrossan, the joint venture that's building the 14.5-mile Green Line extension project, at its 4 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.
When complete, the Southwest Light Rail will connect Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, via Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park. It was scheduled to start serving passengers in 2023 (last year officials said they'd likely miss that target) at a cost of more than $2.2 billion (a price tag that's increased over the years).
But the potential deal could mean a 34-month delay, pushing the opening date back to at least 2026. And Met Council is proposing to pay Lunda McCrossan $40 million upfront and up to $210 million down the line.
This proposed settlement stems from ongoing disputes over changes to the project that weren't part of the original 2018 construction contract. Among them: adding a crash wall to separate the new light rail line from the BNSF freight line in Minneapolis; changes to the design and construction of the Kenilworth tunnel; and the addition of the Eden Prairie Town Center Station.
The changes have added time to how long it'll take to complete the project and how much it'll cost, noting, with meeting documents saying the changes "will also delay the systems contractor, the start of revenue operations, and result in additional costs."
"This settlement is necessary to complete civil construction and expeditiously resolve the disputes related to the additional time required to perform the work while ensuring that [Lunda McCrossan's] claimed costs are properly vetted and documented," documents state.
Met Council may have to pay more than the proposed $210 million because the agency and Lunda McCrossan haven't agreed on who is to blame for four of the 34 months of delays (Met Council says it is responsible for 30 of the 34 months of delays due to all the changes to the contract). The two parties have also not agreed on the total costs of labor and equipment overruns, change orders and productivity of the works that's been performed thus far.
The documents say Met Council and Lunda McCrossan are trying to work out these disagreements but the dispute may need to go to mediation.
In other Southwest Light Rail news, the Minneapolis Park Board recently denied the Metropolitan Council's request to extend the agency's permit to close Cedar Lake Parkway so it can work on the Kenilworth tunnel.
The Met Council has a permit to close the parkway for 180 days, from February to July 10. But the park board voted 5-3 to deny the agency's request to extend the permit to the end of the year, RT & S reports.
Lawmakers have also raised concerns about Met Council's governance structure and accountability, with FOX 9 reporting Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, plan to introduce a bill that would make Met Council members elected instead of appointed.
The Met Council shares updates on construction for the light rail project here.