Despite construction challenges, Southwest remains on track to open in 2027

Despite construction challenges, Southwest remains on track to open in 2027


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The Southwest light-rail line remains on track to begin service in 2027 despite construction difficulties encountered last winter, Metropolitan Council officials said this week.

“We won’t announce a month or a date until we’re closer,” said Project Director Jim Alexander, during a Southwest advisory committee meeting Wednesday.

The Met Council, which is building the 14.5-mile line, said earlier this year that 2027 was the target date to start passenger service — four years later than planned when ground was broken for the project in late 2018.

Still, the fact that the latest opening date has not changed for the $2.7 billion Green Line extension despite a steady drumbeat of recent challenges and setbacks is noteworthy. The project, which has been planned for at least two decades, is the state’s most expensive public works project.

More than 60% of the line, which links downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, is now constructed, particularly along its western stretch. But only 40% of a special wall for a key tunnel in Minneapolis’ Kenilworth Corridor has been completed so far.

The wall stabilizes soils in the corridor, which is close to both Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, while the tunnel is constructed. Council officials have said this method is being used to help protect the foundation of nearby buildings.

Work on the wall “is ongoing,” said Southwest project spokesperson Trevor Roy. “Currently crews are adjacent to the Cedar Isles condominiums parking structure and moving north toward Cedar Lake Parkway,”

The Met Council announced in January that the project will cost $450 million to $550 million more than expected, raising the maximum price tag to $2.75 billion. The increase was attributed to the complexity of building the Kenilworth tunnel, the addition of a station in Eden Prairie, and a $93 million mile-long crash wall that will separate freight and light-rail trains west of Target Field.

On Wednesday, Alexander said an additional $80.5 million in Met Council funds had been transferred to the project but will not increase the project’s overall bottom line.

After the council’s announcement in January, cracks were discovered inside the Cedar Isles condominium complex, parts of which lie within inches of Southwest construction — a conundrum that condo residents had long feared.

A nationally known engineering firm hired by the Met Council determined that the construction of the light-rail line had little to do with the cracking. Most of the cracks occurred due to “seasonal temperature swings,” officials with Socotec Engineering Inc. said — a conclusion that many residents dispute.

The council has installed additional monitoring systems both inside and outside the Cedar Isles complex to determine if construction is damaging the buildings. “Our monitoring program is really robust,” said Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle during Wednesday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, the Cedar Isles board and the council have engaged retired Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz as a mediator to help iron out disputes between the two parties.

“We’re hoping for a reasonable solution,” Zelle said.

Roy said the Met Council has no further comment regarding the mediation, and members of the Cedar Isles Condominium Association board declined to comment.

Despite construction challenges, Southwest remains on track to open in 2027

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