The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has cleared the path for the construction on the $2.003bn Southwest Light Rail Transit Project (SWLRT) in the US state of Minnesota.
The largest infrastructure project in the state’s history, it is expected to create 7,500 construction jobs, with an estimated $350m payroll.
Governor Mark Dayton said: “This news is long-awaited and hard-earned. The Southwest Light Rail Transit project is a critical economic development project for the people of Minnesota.
“When complete, it will improve many thousands of lives from Eden Prairie to North Minneapolis. It will create new jobs, reduce highway congestion, and better connect Minnesotans to one another.”
The FTA granted a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) to the Council, which makes the early construction work on the project eligible for federal reimbursement upon award of the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) in 2019.
With the FFGA, the federal government will pay $929m, nearly half of the project’s total cost.
The granting of LONP means that the Metropolitan Council can proceed with awarding a construction contract and begin mobilising for construction.
Metropolitan Council chair Alene Tchourumoff said: “The FTA takes this step very seriously and I am thrilled to receive the approval that allows us to award the state’s largest civil construction project.
“SWLRT is a strong, important project, which has been designed and planned by a team of some of the most talented professionals in the country.
“Its planning alone has attracted millions of private economic development along the corridor, generating a return on investment before the first shovels even hit the ground.
“And now, thanks to our federal partners, the hard work and commitment from the county and so many in our region, we have the critical approval in hand and that final step of construction is on the horizon.”
Earlier in 2018, the Council received two construction contract bids from Lunda/CS McCrossan ($799,514,338) and Ames/Kraemer ($812,125,583). The Council asked the bidders twice to extend their bid validity while awaiting FTA approval. However, the latter did not respond to the final extension request.
The LONP sets several local actions into motion, for the Council to award the contract. This includes approvals from Hennepin County, the project’s primary local funder.
Early construction activities in winter could include staffing and equipment mobilisation, site clearance, demolition and utility work.
Heavy construction is expected in 2019-2022, with testing of the system with new light rail vehicles in 2022-2023.
SWLRT is expected to begin passenger service in 2023 as an extension of the METRO Green Line.
SWLRT is a 14.5-mile line with 16 stations serving Minneapolis, St Louis Park, nearby Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.
Image: Southwest Light Rail Transit Project gets federal approval to begin construction. Photo: Courtesy of Lukas Robertson / Unsplash.