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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Construction costs soar for Twin Cities' Central Corridor project

The Central Corridor LRT Project office has hit a snag with its proposed 11-mile downtown Minneapolis-to-downtown St. Paul light-rail line. Project costs have risen from $932 million to $990 million.

The increase is largely due to federal requests that the agency include an additional $42 million in the project’s $130 million contingency fund to cover such things as unexpected field conditions and an adverse construction bidding climate. In addition, professional services and financing costs have risen since corridor developers first estimated construction expenses.

Now, the Twin Cities’ Metropolitan Council must reduce the project’s price tag by about $150 million to meet federal cost-effectiveness requirements and obtain federal matching funds.

“The reality is this: We can’t afford to build this project unless the federal government pays half the cost,” said Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell in a prepared statement. “And the federal government won’t partner with us unless we reduce the cost to about $840 million and meet their cost-effectiveness requirements.”

The estimate will be revised over the summer once the agency completes preliminary engineering.

If the Central Corridor LRT Project were to include all features requested by stakeholders, costs would soar to $1.25 billion.

The cost of adding a University of Minnesota tunnel would rise by $110 million to $130 million if the agency lengthened the 2,050-foot tunnel by 950 feet to get around the new university football station. In addition, East Bank Station costs would rise by $128 million to $148 million if the agency converted the facility from an open-cut to a full underground station with mezzanine. And, extending the line in downtown St. Paul to the concourse behind Union Depot would add between $32 million and $58 million, depending on the route chosen.

Next month, the Metropolitan Council will hold three “listening sessions” to obtain feedback on the project proposals. The council will make scoping decisions Feb. 27 in order to keep the project on track to begin final design in 2009.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/10/2008