Letters seeking permission to conduct pre-construction surveys of properties along the 14.5-mile path of the Southwest Light Rail Transit project started landing in mailboxes in February.
Construction on the $2 billion project, an extension of the Metro Green Line that will add tracks between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, is scheduled to begin this spring. It is expected to last through 2022.
Metro Transit spokesperson Trevor Roy said participation in the surveys is optional, but it’s the only way for property owners to get into the official damage claims process should any damage occur during construction. He compared it to the walk-through many rental property owners conduct with new tenants at the start of a lease.
Roy said letters would be mailed to owners of all properties within 95 feet of the planned construction area.
When Kenwood homeowner Jacqueline McGlamery found the letter in her mail Feb. 11 — with a right-of-entry permit ready for her to sign and return — she said it seemed to come “out of the blue.” The letter indicated that the SWLRT project office would follow up if she did not respond within seven days.
It felt like “short notice” to make a decision when she still had questions about both the project and the pre-construction survey, she said.
“There has been no information, no construction schedule, no updates to homeowners, no public meeting,” said McGlamery, who lives near the future West 21st Street station not far from Cedar Lake East Beach.
“The other thing that comes to mind,” she added, “is that if they’re in need of protecting themselves, what damage should I expect to happen? I’ve not been through a construction project like this. What kind of vibrations should I expect? Can you give me a number on the Richter scale?”
Property owners will have a chance to pose those questions at a future public meeting. The spring construction schedule for SWLRT has not yet been set, but once it is property owners near the line can expect to hear about town hall meeting or similar event, Roy said.
He said the seven-day timeline referred to in the letter wasn’t a hard deadline, and property owners would have additional opportunities to respond before the Met Council sends out a final notice.
While the Metropolitan Council is leading the SWLRT project — the costliest public works project in state history — the pre-construction surveys will be conducted by IMO Consulting Group, a subcontractor employed by Lunda/McCrossan Joint Ventures. The joint venture, comprised of construction firms Lunda Construction Co. and C.S. McCrossan, won the SWLRT civil construction contract last fall on a bid of $799.5 million.
The joint venture’s contract with Met Council requires it to pay out for damage claims, Roy said. Met Council will provide oversight of the claims process.
While he didn’t have an exact number at hand, Roy noted the project would potentially impact a huge number of individual properties on its route from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
“It wouldn’t be in our interest to make them unhappy,” he said.
According to the letter sent to property owners, the pre-construction survey takes approximately two to three hours. It involves the taking of measurements and both still photo and video documentation of the property’s conditions. The property owner or a representative must be on site during the survey.
There is no charge to the property owner.