Cities agree to cut $250 million from Southwest light rail project

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Members of a key advisory board for the Southwest light rail line agreed Wednesday on a $250 million package of cuts, including the elimination of one stop, to trim the project's ballooning costs.

The 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 has been looking at several options to reduce the project's cost by $341 million and bring it back to its original price tag.

The biggest item on the list approved Wednesday by the Southwest Corridor Management Committee is the elimination of the westernmost station at Mitchell Road in Eden Prairie, according to the Southwest Journal.

Instead, the rail line would end at the Southwest station, which is already a transit hub for commuters in the southwestern suburb.

Other changes include delaying construction of another station at the Eden Prairie Mall, cutting back on the size of park and ride lots, and trimming spending on landscaping and public art, according to the Star Tribune.

All of the stations in Minneapolis remain in the final plan, however, the $12 million Cedar Lake bike trail crossing in the city was cut, MPR News notes.

The $250 million in recommended cuts is still $90 million short, so representatives of the cities involved "passed the hat" Wednesday and pledged additional local funding to help attract more federal funding and bridge the gap, according the Journal.

The full Metropolitan Council will review the new proposal and is expected to vote on it next week.

One big piece of funding is still in question: the state had earlier agreed to chip in about $165 million. But the state Legislature has not yet appropriated that money, and Republican leaders have said they are not in favor of the project.

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