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$500 million in possible cuts outlined for Southwest light rail line

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Transportation officials are pondering several changes to the proposed Southwest Light Rail project in the Twin Cities metro area that could trim up to $500 million from its price tag.

Metro Transit officials came up with the list of potential cuts as they try to reduce the cost of the project, which has risen to an estimated $2 billion as of last month.

The planned 16-mile route – which will extend Metro Transit’s Green Line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie – previously had a price tag of $1.65 billion.

But it jumped to $1.994 billion following additional engineering and environmental studies that found poor ground conditions and soil contamination along the route, the Met Council announced in April.

The list of more than 50 possible changes was released Wednesday at an informational meeting, as staff try to meet a goal of reducing the project's cost by at least $341 million, the Star Tribune reports.

The most savings would come from eliminating a few of the 17 planned stops along the rail line, according to FOX 9. Options include getting rid of one of them in downtown Minneapolis, or shortening the route at the other end by eliminating at least one stop in Eden Prairie.

Other suggested cuts included trimming plans for pedestrian trails, landscaping and public art, according to the Star Tribune.

At this point, the alignment of the route itself would not be changed.

State leaders, including Gov. Dayton, said they were shocked when the project's cost ballooned to $2 billion, and they said the future of the project was in doubt if the price tag is not reduced.

No decisions were made at the meeting. The Southwest LRT Corridor Management Committee will recommend a final plan to the Metropolitan Council by early July.

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