All the bids for building a new light rail line were too expensive, council chair says

She wants the Met Council to cut costs and redo the bidding

All four of the bids to extend Twin Cities light rail service to the southwest suburbs came in too high, the chair of the Metropolitan Council said Monday. 

The Met Council received four bids to build a Southwest line extending from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. Chair Alene Tchourumoff said in a statement Monday she will urge the council to reject all of them when they vote next week.

Tchourumoff says the council should have staff find ways to cut costs and then start the bidding process over again next month. 

How expensive is the project? 

The total cost of the Southwest LRT project is budgeted at $1.8 billion. But that includes buying the land, getting the train cars, and other non-construction expenses. 

The Met Council has not said publicly how much they think construction alone should cost. The four construction bids that Tchourumoff says should be rejected range from $797 million to $1.08 billion, so apparently they want it to be well under $800 million. 

The plan is for the federal government to cover half the total cost. But Tchourumoff says redoing the construction bids will postpone the application for that federal money. 

What now? 

The whole Met Council will meet Wednesday to talk about Tchourumoff's recommendation. Then they'll have a special meeting a week later to vote on it. 

Under the timetable Tchourumoff is suggesting, staff would have to find ways to cut costs and then reopen the bidding process in October. The bids would be due by December and a winner would be picked by March. 

The goal was to have the whole 14.5 mile line open in 2021 but this delay would push that into 2022, Tchourumoff says. 

The Met Council's main partner on the project is Hennepin County, whose board chair, Jan Callison, said Monday: “While we are disappointed with this result, we are working hard to identify modifications that can be made without compromising the project.”

Republican legislators have opposed the Southwest LRT project, calling it a waste of money. The Met Council says it will connect Twin Cities workers to a quarter-million jobs without having to drive, and notes the Southwest line is supported by state and local chambers of commerce.

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