Panel: rising cost of southwest light rail line 'unacceptable'

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Commissioners from five counties that would help pay for a new light rail line in the Twin Cities area have told planners to rein in the escalating cost of the project.

The line connecting Minneapolis and Eden Prairie was originally budgeted at $1.25 billion but the Star Tribune reports the price tag has climbed by a few hundred million, which Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said is "just not acceptable."

The newspaper says Hennepin County's Mike Opat suggested planners have put too much time and money into trying to appease a small number of critics.

As MPR reports, much of the upward pressure on the cost comes from the fact that part of the proposed route is already occupied by freight rail tracks. Re-routing the freight trains or running the light rail line underground would push up the expense.

And the prospect of moving the railroad tracks does not sit well with some neighbors -- particularly a St. Louis Park school, as KARE-11 reported earlier this month.

In addition, local governments have been weighing in with some costly suggestions for improving the project. Hopkins Patch reported last week on the $37 million worth of requests that city is making and said altogether communities along the line have requested $100 million in "betterments."

It's the Metropolitan Council that's on the receiving end of the complaints about costs, routes and details. The council recently postponed finalizing some of the decisions about the size and scope of the Southwest LRT line.

Here's how the council describes the project on its website.

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