FTA gives Congress 30-day heads up on $928.8-million funding grant to Met Council’s Southwest LRT project

Aug. 6, 2020
The 14.5-mile light-rail extension began construction in late 2018 and is expected to open for service in 2023.

Congress has been notified of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) intent to award a $928.8-million Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) to the Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT) project in Minnesota.  

Congress has 30 days to review and, if no objections are raised, an FFGA is expected to be signed and executed.  

The Metropolitan Council project will extend the existing Green Line, served by Metro Transit, 14.5 miles where it will serve Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, nearby Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.

The 16-station project broke ground in late 2018 and is expected to begin service in 2023.

“This is incredible news for the Twin Cities and state of Minnesota,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. “The Southwest Light Rail Project will be transformative for so many communities when complete and encapsulates the idea of a One Minnesota.”

In 2014, there were approximately 64,300 jobs within a half mile of the proposed stations and 126,800 jobs in downtown Minneapolis. By 2035, employment is expected to grow to 80,900 within a half mile of the proposed stations and 145,300 in downtown Minneapolis — an 18 percent increase in employment. The population along the line outside of downtown Minneapolis is expected to grow by 56 percent from 2014 to 2035.

“This is a critical leg of our planned light-rail network that will work alongside our roads, bridges, bikeways and walkways to carry our region into the future and prepare us for long-term growth and success,” said Hennepin County Commissioner and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority Chair Jan Callison.

Construction was able to begin on the $2-billion project due to the FTA issuing four Letters of No Prejudice, which allowed local money to be spent and construction to advance. In addition to federal funding, Hennepin County is providing $591.4 million to the project, the Counties Transit Improvement Board is contributing $218.9 million, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority is providing $199.5 million, the state of Minnesota is contributing $30.3 million and other local contributions will make up the difference.

“I believe in transit and I believe in Southwest LRT and all the benefits it will bring to not only the Metro but for the state of Minnesota. We have already seen the private sector investment along the alignment, and we have heard from the community, which shares our enthusiasm for this project. I have no doubt members of Congress will also see these benefits,” said Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle.  

In November 2018, Met Council awarded a nearly $800-million construction contract to Lunda/C.S. McCrossan for the project and followed that in September 2019 with a $194.4 million contract for the construction and installation of equipment such as overhead catenary lines, traction power and communication systems to Aldridge-Parsons Joint Venture. 

This is the second big light-rail project news to come from the Met Council this week when it announced it was abandoning plans to construct the Bottineau Blue Line extension along right-of-way owned by BNSF Railway and would be pursuing an alternative route.  

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.