Met Council Says SWLRT Bids Cost too Much

Preya Samsundar/Alpha News MN

MINNEAPOLIS – Initially slated to cost roughly $1.858 billion, the lack of federal support for the Southwest Light Rail Transit project and the reality of the cost of the project are settling in as the Metropolitan Council rejected four construction bids Monday.

While members of Congress have spoken against the project, and most of the Minnesota House wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao urging the federal government not fund its half of the project’s cost, the Met Council has continued on regardless. Now they have hit a snag of their own.

Met Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff is recommending that the full council reject the only four bids submitted. All of them come in considerably under the $1.858 billion mark, but Tchourumoff, in consultation with Hennepin County officials, believes the construction costs are too high and the plans do not include everything the SWLRT project is supposed to have.

“We must look closely at ways to modify the specifications for these bids in a way that will reduce project costs where possible,” Tchourumoff said in a press release. “Working together with Hennepin County, I think we can bring innovative cost reduction strategies to the table and ultimately find efficiencies in this procurement. We’re going to be sharpening our pencils, and we encourage the contractors to do the same.”

Ames Kraemer submitted the lowest bid, at $796.5 million. Lund McCrossen’s bid totaled $807.9 million, Southwest Rail Constructors’ hit $1.069 billion, and the most expensive bid came from Southwest Transit Constructors, with a price tag of $1.08 billion.

The project would connect Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie, totalling 14.5 miles of new track. With these bids, that would mean the construction costs alone of the SWLRT project would average somewhere between $54.9 million and $74.5 million per mile.

“While we are disappointed with this result, we are working hard to identify modifications that can be made without compromising the project,” Hennepin County Commissioner and County Board Chair Jan Callison said in the press release.

Even with bids under this first rejected set of bids, the cost of the SWLRT is much more expensive than highway constructions or other forms of transit. For example, as Alpha News reported previously, the cost of constructing a six-lane highway averages about $11 million per mile in urban areas.

Anders Koskinen