Southwest LRT price tag jumps to $2 billion

MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Gov. Mark Dayton: “The continuing escalation of the costs to design and build this line raise serious questions about its viability and affordability.”

What was once a $1.66 billion price tag to extend light rail from Target Field Station to Eden Prairie is now a nearly $2 billion price tag.

The increase in the estimate to complete the 16-mile extension is being blamed on more-detailed engineering, which found poor ground conditions along the route and soil contamination in St. Louis Park and Hopkins. The price increase, coming even before next month’s expected release of a draft environmental impact statement that could result in other cost hikes, threatens the project.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he was “shocked and appalled” at the new estimated costs. “The continuing escalation of the costs to design and build this line raise serious questions about its viability and affordability,” Dayton said. 

Dayton said he wants the Metropolitan Council to review the costs compared with other options for delivering transit services to the region served by the expansion. He also wants the council to look at the “capabilities and competencies” of the Met Council project staff. “I certainly will not recommend that any additional public money be committed to the project until I am satisfied that its cost can be justified and properly managed.” 

In an earlier statement released Monday, Met Council Chair Adam Duininck said, “The additional costs for the Southwest LRT Project pose significant challenges for our funding partners and taxpayers, I will be talking with our funding partners, local communities, and legislative leaders to determine the future of this project – all options are on the table. As we weigh our options, I have directed our engineers and contractors to pursue every possible efficiency to achieve cost savings.” 

The additional information came as the project moved to the 30 percent engineering level, something that happens once state and local funding commitments have been made. According to the statement, the more-detailed engineering found additional wetlands that would be impacted, most of those in Eden Prairie. It also identified the need for 11 additional acres of property (to 137 acres), 99 additional businesses that need to be relocated (for a total of 146) and additional gated crossings and crossing improvements where light rail and freight rail are in close proximity.

Comments (47)

  1. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 04/27/2015 - 10:30 am.

    Since when…

    does the price of anything shock Governor Dayton?

  2. Submitted by Michael Hess on 04/27/2015 - 10:43 am.

    Solution

    All the Gov needs to do is throw a new tax at high earners. It’s an endless pot of money he can tap again to close the gap to fill the bottomless pit of state spending needs. Problem solved.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/27/2015 - 10:50 am.

    Any competent project manager builds in contingency funds. Why is it government projects always manage to blow through every contingency until it has vacuumed up twice the advertised price?

    The Capitol, the green line, the SLOB, every major road project, ever; all coating beyond the wildest dream of taxpayers.

    And yet the same players continue to show up for the jobs.

    I tell you, I’m in the wrong line of work.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/27/2015 - 11:14 am.

    Dayton can be funny sometimes.

    Like when he said he was “shocked” to discover that the Vikings were gong to charge for seat licenses. He’s playing to the crowd. Of course we shouldn’t sign off on more money unless we know its really necessary… that’s all he’s really saying.

    I would point out however that Dayton himself is actually responsible to some extent for any costs that have gone up do to delays. He himself delayed this project for a year in order to conduct yet another “study” in the Kenilworth section. And we spent a few million bucks on that study as well.

    • Submitted by Chris Johnson on 04/27/2015 - 09:22 pm.

      Delays always cost money

      Your remarks are on the mark. Mr. Udstrand.

      Did anybody think it would get cheaper with each additional delay? Inflation — and speculation in any project involving acquisition of land — are guaranteed. Project planners always state the cost in “today’s” dollars to make it sound more palatable, but really ought to state the price in “when it’s finally built” dollars to be realistic. The planners know the price is going to go up.

  5. Submitted by Curtis Johnson on 04/27/2015 - 11:28 am.

    Cost of SW LRT

    How much of the estimated increase is attributable to the stalling tactics of Kenilworth opponents, the Park Board, and various political rivalries? Most of it, I’ll bet. The governor should hardly be shocked but he’s justified in being appalled.

    • Submitted by Michael Hess on 04/27/2015 - 04:29 pm.

      if you read the article….

      and if the article is to be believed, “The increase in the estimate to complete the 16-mile extension is being blamed on more-detailed engineering, which found poor ground conditions along the route and soil contamination in St. Louis Park and Hopkins”. To your question then, none of the increase is due to the Mpls residents concerns.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/28/2015 - 09:35 am.

      Around $50 million

      The one year delay cost $50 million.

  6. Submitted by lee wick on 04/27/2015 - 11:38 am.

    Residents Don’t Want SWLRT

    What don’t you hear from the residents? This appears to be a transit promise to Target in Brooklyn Park. This train doesn’t do anything but go from MSP to Target. Hundreds of homes a church and other settings will be destroyed. There is no room for development along the route uless you wipe out existing like the green line.

    • Submitted by Rodgers Adams on 04/27/2015 - 02:30 pm.

      Wrong Target

      Oops! The Green Line extension doesn’t go to Target’s suburban campus northwest of downtown. It goes to Eden Prairie, southwest of downtown. And any appeal to “listen to the residents” is subject to suspicion: Which residents? Those who think the Target campus is southwest of downtown?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/28/2015 - 10:06 am.

      Yes, residents want this.

      The reason all the cities have signed off on this is because there’s strong support for it. We have not transit options out here and the bus rides are tied up in traffic. It takes almost an hour to get from St. Louis Park to Downtown MPLS on on the 17D. That would be a 20 minute ride on the LR.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 04/27/2015 - 12:02 pm.

    Blah, Blah, Blah.

    Lets talk about the excessive taxpayer cost of building our State’s roads and freeways for the benefit of the auto manufacturers who directly help pay for none of them but are once again reaping profits beyond expectation… thanks to the taxpayer bailouts of a few years ago and the gullible consumers of today.

    • Submitted by Chris Johnson on 04/27/2015 - 09:27 pm.

      Indeed

      That’s a good point, Mr. Litfin. The price escalation on this SW LRT line is a pittance compared to the vast sums of money spent, borrowed and still more being borrowed to build more miles of roads per capita than almost every other state in the union. It’s not economically sustainable; Minnesota will be abandoning roads completely for lack of funds to maintain them in next few decades.

  8. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/27/2015 - 12:34 pm.

    The question is: when to abandon a sinking ship?

    If the past is any indicator, there’ll be plenty more surprises to come.

    These new numbers indicate a tendency toward error in the planning. These are not one-off anomalies. We could be looking at the beginning of a parade of disclosures of miscalculations, wrong-headed assumptions, and faulty projections. There is no way this one is going to cap out at $2 billion.

    Mr. Swift has a very good point – in the private sector, you can’t use a falsely low price tag to advance your career – it’s too risky to others in the business to rely on you in future projects. “On Budget” is meaningful in the private sector. But in the public sector, it is as though your current estimate of costs were an opening bid in an auction. Advertising an initial unrealistically low cost works wonderfully to put over projects by incremental disclosures where the real and true costs would be too shocking to the public if swallowed all at once.

    It might be better to ask: is it worth $2.5 billion ?? If the answer is “No”, then in consideration of poor planning of a project which is controversial in the first place – far from widely accepted and endorsed by the public – it should go down. NOW, not later.

    We should not get so deep into this project that its proponents argue: “We’ve committed so much already, it would be wasteful to NOT continue.” Watch for this argument: I predict we’ll be hearing it before long.

  9. Submitted by joe smith on 04/27/2015 - 12:40 pm.

    Rule number 1, never ask the price of these projects. You build it with tax dollars, fund it with tax dollars and pay employees with tax dollars. DFL job creation dream. Rule number 2, you can now complain that there is not enough money in transportation funding and raise taxes on cars, gas or whatever you would like. Dayton is slipping with his new “unbridled” approach. I am sure his fellow DFL’ers will set him straight

  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/27/2015 - 12:56 pm.

    Offhand

    … I’d say the project ought to be killed outright. I’m already subsidizing the entertainment of people far wealthier than I at the new football cathedral, and I’m not at all keen on subsidizing the commute (that is, subsidizing it more than I already do) from Eden Prairie to downtown. If the line were serving people who actually *need* transportation to and from work, I’d be more amenable, but I’ve not been hearing (or reading) a chorus of voices from the affluent southwest suburbs, crying “Give us public transit!” I’m a fan of light rail, and ride it when the opportunity presents itself, but the lines have to make sense in terms of the route, which more and more seems not to be the case for this particular proposal. The line doesn’t yet exist, and something in the neighborhood of 2 billion to build it does not strike me as cost-effective or an efficient use of taxpayer funds.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 04/27/2015 - 03:03 pm.

      Not everyone who lives in the southwest suburbs is affluent, but it is most certainly true that the Eden Prairie area is already well-served by Southwest Metro Transit bus service to downtown.

  11. Submitted by Steven Dornfeld on 04/27/2015 - 01:18 pm.

    SW Corridor’s Cost

    When the SW Corridor project first was approved by the Met Council in 2011, the estimated cost was $1.25 billion, with a completion date by 2018. So the cost has nearly doubled while the completion date has slipped by two years. It’s worth remembering that Hennepin County led the study of this corridor and recommended the alignment that has proven to be so controversial.

    • Submitted by Larry Moran on 04/27/2015 - 02:41 pm.

      SW Corridor Cost

      Actually, when the discussion for this route got serious the initial estimates were around $900 million. The cost increased to $1.2 billion when the route changed in EP and MTKA. Regardless, $2 billion is significant. It makes sense to pause and see if there are other options (shorter route, BRT, etc.).

  12. Submitted by Brian Simon on 04/27/2015 - 02:01 pm.

    theory vs reality

    ” in the private sector, you can’t use a falsely low price tag to advance your career ”

    That my be true in textbooks, but in the real world it happens all the time. New go-getter manager shakes up a functional system with a bold new initiative that fails to perform as well as the old process, but nobody realizes it until the kid is a few more rungs up the ladder. The spin machine & playing politics are not limited to government.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 04/27/2015 - 10:15 pm.

      Go-getter gets fired while

      Go-getter gets fired while the govt worker gets a raise. That is one small difference.

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/28/2015 - 07:45 am.

        Not necessarily

        Go getter gets fired in a lot of private workplaces too. Its naive (and just wrong) to believe that the private sector is always meritocracy, and also that the public sector isn’t.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/28/2015 - 09:13 am.

        And

        Go-getter gets a nice severance bonus (two to three times the govt worker’s annual salary) and finds a fat job in another industry.

  13. Submitted by Mike Downing on 04/27/2015 - 02:22 pm.

    Roads & Bridges, Roads & Bridges, Roads & Bridges

    The voters in 2014 said “Roads & Bridges, Roads & Bridges, Roads & Bridges”!! LRT has been all about redevelopment and not really about transportation. It is time our legislature and our Governor focus like a laser beam on “Roads & Bridges, Roads & Bridges, Roads & Bridges”!!

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/27/2015 - 03:15 pm.

      If so…

      We need to pay for those roads and bridges. I would love to see maintenance keep up with the degradation of our roads and bridges, but we’re not wiling to fund it. Meanwhile, because we’re not investing in alternative transportation, the cost of maintaining those roads and bridges is going up because traffic is increasing on them. Add more = more maintenance costs we don’t want to pay. If you want it, pay for it. But remember that when people are whining about the gas tax doubling. I say go for it! In fact, increase the gas tax and then also tag on a travel and weight road maintenance fee. It would be good to see what it really costs us to drive.

  14. Submitted by Theo Kozel on 04/27/2015 - 02:54 pm.

    Meanwhile, back in reality

    I see our resident conservatives are once again publicly programming themselves in these very forums. The unfortunate (for them) reality is that this article shows that Governor Dayton actually doesn’t go along with taxing and spending without limit- he’s actually casting doubt on his support of SW LRT if costs cannot be contained better. This is contrary to the conservative orthodox spin about liberals, but it’s amazing to see how people can transform challenges to confirmations of their assumptions.

    Fellas, if you handle the spin on your own, whatever will FOX News have left to do?

  15. Submitted by Mike Davidson on 04/27/2015 - 03:37 pm.

    Time to Cut the Cord

    As a staunch supporter of public/mass transit, I have stood behind this project from the get-go. But it’s clearly time to cut the cord. The price is just too high and we could expand the light rail system in another direction, say toward Maple Grove along the I94 corridor with far less redevelopment. At this rate, by the time we settle on price and squabbles with SLP and Eden Prairie over land redevelopment it’ll be 2020 by the time this thing is even started. Kill the project and look at the viability of other routes. As I said, the I94 corridor toward Maple Grove is much more suited for a train development.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/27/2015 - 04:40 pm.

      As many know, I am an avid advocate of mass transit, but

      the routing of the SW Line never made sense to me. It goes from nowhere (a part of the Northside where few people live) to nowhere (Eden Prairie), serving a couple of areas that could use better transit (Excelsior Grand and Hopkins) but mostly passing through areas where the residents wouldn’t even be able to ride it but will face disruption (Cedar Lake).

      How about using some of the money allocated for the Southwest Line to add a loop to the Green Line in downtown St. Paul so that it serves the Ordway, the Science Museum, and other destinations that would appeal to Minneapolis residents? How about improving bus service on Excelsior Boulevard or redesigning the bus system so that all major destinations and concentrations of population enjoy seven-day-a-week frequent service?

      Portland is famous for its (soon to be) five light rail lines, but it’s the well-coordinated and frequent bus service that makes it easy to live without a car.

      For all future transit projects, planners should ask, whether the plan serves actual destinations and concentrations of population. If not, the plan should go back to the drawing board or into the wastebasket.

  16. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/27/2015 - 03:45 pm.

    Should the cost rise be unexpected or unusual?

    The green line was 11 miles and cost about a billion dollars.

    This line is 16 miles long–about 50% longer, so you are already half way from 1 billion to 2 billion at 1.5 billion.

    Consider the fact that University Avenue has always been a public transportation axis, and much of the Blue line route has not, adding cost to stations access roads and construction.

    The Blue line transits much more expensive property and engages far more diverse terrain than the Green line–adding yet more cost.

    Then add into the mix a much more engaged and savvy bunch of property owners who will extract the most from the project to cover their costs, and who will guard their property zealously against damage–add more cost.

    Considering all of this, plus the decade later starting cost, and I would be surprised if costs were north of $ 2.5 billion.

    Shocked, indeed.

  17. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 04/27/2015 - 04:19 pm.

    Benefits and costs

    Most of the above comments are predictably non-sequiturs and lacking insight or adhesion to empirical reality.

    For the sake of policy on the state and metro level, all that matters is what this will cost state and specific local taxpayers versus the value of the benefits. People who inflate the price tag and ignore the substantial portion of the capital cost that will come from federal funds are not being honest in their arguments.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/28/2015 - 05:06 am.

      lacking insight; adhesion to empirical reality

      Are you saying the estimated costs DID NOT increase by hundreds of millions of dollars ??

      If the costs DID increase by the amounts publicized by the Met Council, are these dollars that don’t “adhere” to empirical reality ?? Are the only real dollars here the federal subsidy, so therefore we should ignore the rest ?? And do you really think anyone who disagrees with your views is being dishonest ??

      And as long as we’re adhering to empirical reality here, let’s focus on “all that matters” and peg a number (a real number, one we can adhere to) on the “value of the benefits” you propose as critical to your analysis. What is this value, specifically and precisely ?? I mean in order to weigh it against the costs, we need an actual value here, don’t we ?? Some of us find the purported valuations we’ve seen rather vague – long on subjective language, but lacking adhesion to empirical reality, you might say.

      As to the “actual” numbers (though let’s face it, are there any real numbers here, since they are all in motion ?), the Met Council site, PRIOR to this latest hike in the estimated cost, stated “The total project cost of $1.65 billion will be funded through a mix of federal, state and local sources, with federal funds making up approximately half the total.”

      Unless there’s something wrong with my arithmetic, it’s no longer “approximately half” – the federal subsidy would appear to be on a downward arc, relatively speaking, as the total costs trend upwards.

      Some of us simply don’t agree that nothing matters but the federal subsidy. I suppose those who doubt the wisdom of this project could call its proponents dishonest – as you have done here to the opponents – but why would we do that ??

  18. Submitted by John Clouse on 04/27/2015 - 11:57 pm.

    SW Rail

    Two billion for a train that will be used every day or one billion for a stadium that will be used 10 days a year?

  19. Submitted by Mark Handeland on 04/28/2015 - 01:52 am.

    Nothing shocking

    I don’t know how anyone was shocked at this news. With nearly all large projects costs always go up prior to starting building and during the building process. This project, if built will most likely be above 2.5 billion.

    This news makes taking a hard look at the route more important. Initially there were other options other than running this paralel to the Kenilworth trail. The Kenilworth route was chosen as it was viewed as easy and more economical. That clearly has not been the case. All other routes will have barriers and added costs but if I train is going to be built for billions of dollars it should be build well and serve as many people as possible.

    Skipping the most dense area in the metro makes this mainly a commuter train. The SW suburbs already have SW Transit which is the best bus system in the metro with comfy buses, Wifi and they drop riders off in the heart of downtown. I have yet to meet anyone who plans on abandoning the SW transit bus once the train is up and running but I have heard the train will be nice when they go to a Twins game on the weekend once or twice a season. No one from the Met council has told me an estimated time the light rail would take to get from Eden Prairie to downtown but I would expect it to be twice the amount of time as the SW transit bus and that is just to the Target field station.

  20. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 04/28/2015 - 09:46 am.

    Start planning to kill all LRT and buses.

    Self-driving cars are coming. Not if, but when. Start creating the infrastructure to make such a universal system viable and then plan to implement it sooner rather than later. All vehicles within a defined area (say from 494 on the west to the 694/494 split on the east) are self-driving, no manually driven cars allowed inside the area. Served by a public fleet of electric vehicles–paid by fares/fees for service. Most people in the area no longer need cars except for their trips out of the area–which are stored at the periphery and can be accessed. Or they can rent a car for such a trip and have no vehicle investment whatsoever. This also means houses can be larger because there is no need for vehicle parking–and now the streets are usable “full width” due to no cars being parked on the streets. Public safety is enhanced. Police work becomes easier because there is no getaway car that is not known to them–and who used it (pictures worth 1000 words).

    • Submitted by James Rickton on 04/29/2015 - 07:36 am.

      I would say that’s a loooooong way off

      You do realize that we can’t even make a phone that doesn’t crash or hang multiple times a year?

      What you’re asking for is:

      1.) Software that never hangs or crashes, even for a half a second

      2.) GPS that’s 100% accurate, 100% of the time, even in rural areas or areas with road construction or alterations (lane closed due to flooding during a storm)

      3.) Software that can handle adverse conditions that can vary greatly (did a plow come through and leave a bunch of snow in the intersection, is it a rain and sleet mix, etc.) Is it going to be able to detect black ice on a curve in the freeway and slow down in time?

      4.) Software that is able to handle failure and catastrophic failure of every conceivable and inconceivable kind.

      5.) Software that can handle unexpected incidences, such as a large rock falling off the back of a truck, or a mattress flying off the top of a car, and things that no one has thought of yet

      6.) Software that gets updated at a frequency consumers are used to but that still retains it’s robustness

      7.) Remains unhackable in a day in age where script kiddies regularly hack companies and the mantra from every IT security person worth their salt (including the Director of the FBI) is that “you’ve either been hacked or you don’t realize you’ve been hacked.”

      Then, on top of all of that, do it in a way that doesn’t completely violate my privacy (i.e., the car sends a message to my doctor, health insurance, employer and life insurance because I went to Taco Bell.)

      Again, considering that we can’t even do this in a phone, tablet or heck, even a gaming console and folks think that we’re going to do this with software that has to be complicated enough to manage every unforeseen situation while using a wireless protocol that has it connecting to anything before even establishing whether its connecting to a trusted resource or not (because the connection is too slow otherwise) and that somehow this will be safe and secure are living a long way in the future.

      Right now the only long distance drive that anyone is trying to accomplish is being routed based on where good whether is, because the vehicle can’t handle adverse conditions, and it’s going along a very well traveled path. No one is trying to hack it yet, but as with computers and now smart phones, that all changes soon enough.

      Tl;dr Not going to happen any time soon. Too many barriers to use practically.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/28/2015 - 10:03 am.

    Yeah

    Maybe this should be scaled back to a street car line of some kind that can be extended in the future. People are underestimating the potential demand, it’s there, but $300 million is a lot of money to come out of nowhere like this. The planners have been telling us that the engineering estimates were more or less complete. On the other hand, we did add $50 million by delaying the project (Remind Dayton that was his idea), and we added another $50 million to mitigate concerns in the Kenilworth corridor, so one third of this was predictable. But still, pilings and wet lands… they didn’t see this stuff till now?

  22. Submitted by kim bartmann on 04/28/2015 - 05:57 pm.

    Lake Street

    Ok, now that we are reconsidering routes, let’s get that train back on the midtown greenway corridor where Lake Street businesses can benefit along with the most densely populated areas in Minneapolis.

  23. Submitted by John Clark on 04/28/2015 - 01:43 pm.

    Looking at a bigger picture

    If we look at a bigger picture for a minute, and look at how the construction costs of the Southwest LRT system stacks up against construction costs of other mass transit systems around the world, even the proposed $2 billion cost is not out of line. At this price tag, the proposed 16 mile/26 km SW LRT would cost about $125 million/mile, or $77 million/km. This compares to LRT construction costs ranging anywhere between $4 billion/km for subway tunnels in New York, to $65 million/km for an expansion of the Madrid Spain LRT system.

    https://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/us-rail-construction-costs/

    Obviously, we shouldn’t be comparing the costs/km of the SW LRT to a subway system. But this list gives us some comparative costs anyway.

    And speaking of subways systems, we are never really going to have a fast and efficient people transportation system in the Twin Cities if we rely solely on surface transportation, whether this transportation is in the form of roads, mass transit, or streetcars. If one has traveled on any of the first class LRT subway systems worldwide, this becomes obvious. When local transit planners decided to cut costs on the Blue, and especially the Green light rail lines by not utilizing underground (subway) routes, and not using elevated rails extensively, we are now paying the price by having slower commute times. And BTW, the not ready for prime time PRT (or self driving cars) are not the answer here either, since these vehicles would be equally as slow as cars during rush hour time.

    So, should we be paying all these costs for a good mass transit system in the Twin Cities? If we want to attract or retain talented employees and businesses, and want to stay competitive with cities like Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland and Charlotte, the answer here should be a definite yes.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/28/2015 - 02:08 pm.

      “…should we be paying…for a good mass transit system…?”

      Most people here agree that we need a good mass transit system, and that we are willing to pay for it.

      That is not necessarily the same as supporting THIS proposed project.

      And most people here would probably agree that attracting business and people to the area is dependent – at least in part – on a good mass transit system.

      But, again, that is not to say THIS SPECIFIC PROJECT is the one and only way.

      It is easy to find big cost numbers elsewhere – in places that don’t compare well with the Twin Cities, as you have done with your examples of New York and Europe. This is simply to cast the numbers in a more favorable light, nothing more. The point is what is reasonable HERE, in its aims (who will it serve?), design, and cost. Your citation of examples is confused, as on the one hand, you admit the subway comparison in New York shouldn’t be used – then immediately say we should use it for comparison “anyway”. This is nonsense.

      • Submitted by John Clark on 04/28/2015 - 11:17 pm.

        Nonsense?

        The main point of this article in Minnpost, it seems, is to convey that Governor Dayton was “shocked and appalled” at the new estimated costs for the Southwest LRT. His use of those two very strong words implies that the new costs for this project are somehow in the stratosphere. If he is comparing these costs to all LRT/subway systems, including those with more tunnels (such as New York), the cost of the proposed system is far from extravagant (or shocking or appalling), which was the point I was making.

        But even if the Governor is comparing the new $2 billion proposed costs of the LRT to comparable LRT systems built in the U.S. that do not incorporate tunnels, the cost of $125 million per mile is still not shockingly expensive, as the good Governor mighty have us believe. The cost of recent surface light rail lines has ranged from a low of $43 million per mile in Norfolk, VA to a high of $204 million per mile for the new Milwaukie line in Portland. It is hard to make exact comparisons of any of these surface rail systems to our proposed system, since the terrains and routes are completely different. But regardless of these differences, the proposed costs for the SW system seem quite reasonable by comparison, and certainly in the proverbial ball park.

        Now, is “this specific project” “the one and only way” to bring about LRT to the Twin Cities? I am probably as disgruntled as anyone else about how slow the Southwest LRT program has been moving ahead. Questions like, is the route they have chosen the best route, are still valid concerns. Maybe, the powers that be will answer these questions to most people’s satisfaction, and the project will move along. We can only hope anyway, since efficient LRT for people of all incomes, and people in all parts of the Twin Cities area are still needed.

  24. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 04/28/2015 - 05:47 pm.

    If trains cost $0 to build, some ideologues would still fight it

    The reason certain people get agitated about rail and feign “support” for buses is because rail is the mode that breaks the socioeconomic concentration that exists in most US transit systems. As soon as that happens, transit tends to build broader support among people with more resources and it can put a real dent in the monopoly stranglehold of personal motor vehicles.

    Since transit capital expenditures, particularly rail, are highly subsidized with federal dollars, and since they tend to promote economic development (whereas buses generally do not), they tend to be a very attractive option for state and local governments to get behind.

    Rail has lower operating costs per unit of use than buses. It is faster than buses. It uses less labor (usually) than buses. It generally has less roadway impact than buses in terms of congestion contribution. And they use less energy, particularly fossil fuels, than buses. By all these measures, including the economic benefits of development, they are more fiscally responsible than buses. So one would imagine that self-proclaimed “fiscal conservatives” would be supportive of it.

    However, the largest funders of systemic right-wing opposition to rail in the US are two oil barons who, combined, are wealthier than Bill Gates.

    It’s not principle, it’s money and power. Unfortunately, some people unwittingly fall for this and take up the cause without compensation.

    Subsidies are a few factors larger for road infrastructure than they are for public transit. Yet find a supposed “fiscal conservative” being consistently agitated about it.

    Keep that in mind when evaluating the sincerity of those who claim to oppose certain rail projects on “principle”.

  25. Submitted by Jim Million on 04/29/2015 - 11:56 pm.

    The Ideologue Express Runs Both Ways

    If the proposed and re-proposed SW LRT cost projections rise to $3 Billion, some ideologues would still support it.

  26. Submitted by john herbert on 05/06/2015 - 10:28 am.

    Shocked & Appalled

    I agree Governor. Maybe this just does not work and we consider other, more cost effective ways to move Eden Prairie commuters Downtown.

    I am not against effective transit, just believe this is not the best use of funds. In fact, maybe we should just build an office tower in Eden Prairie and plug these folks into their network :-).

  27. Submitted by Ray Tylicki on 05/11/2015 - 10:40 am.

    Gee for 2 Billion you could buy Burlington Northern RR

    Ok maybe a little more… but I find it hard to believe that 2 billion only gets you 16 miles of track rule of thumb is 100,000 to 1 million dollars a mile

  28. Submitted by Ray Tylicki on 05/11/2015 - 10:44 am.

    Gee for 2 Billion you could buy the Burlington Northern RR

    Or at least all of there lines in MN. For a little less you could buy out the Twin Cities and Western Railway that runs in the ditch through the SW side. It only costs 100,000 to 1,000,000 to build a main line through a a corn field. Building a road is 15,000,000.00 a mile

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