Southwest Light Rail Transit project clears funding hurdle

Southwest Light Rail Transit construction
Work is ramping up in the Kenilworth Corridor for the Southwest Light Rail Transit construction project, seen here from the Burnham Road bridge in early November. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

The Southwest Light Rail Transit project has received a full-funding agreement from the federal government, a significant and long-expected move that will cover roughly half the price of the $2 billion Green Line extension.

After multiple letters of no prejudice — essentially notes from the federal government assuring the Metropolitan Council the money would be coming — the Trump Administration announced the advancement of the full funding agreement on Aug. 5. The Federal Transportation Administration will contribute $929 million for the project, just under half the total bill.

“This is incredible news for the Twin Cities and state of Minnesota,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a press release. “The Southwest Light Rail Project will be transformative for so many communities when complete and encapsulates the idea of a One Minnesota.”

The 14.5-mile Green Line extension connecting Downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie has now been under construction for 16 months.

In Southwest Minneapolis, construction activities continue to intensify. In August, crews began the excavation process for the new tunnel being built in the Kenilworth Corridor. The half-mile tunnel being built in Cedar-Isles-Dean is one of the most technically complex and controversial parts of the project.

Work this summer has consisted mostly of installing metal sheeting used to form the tunnel, but crews began the early stages of excavation in August, according to the Met Council. Initial excavation steps are starting near Park Siding Park off West 28th Street, where temporary tunnel cells are being constructed. More trucks and workers will be in the area in the coming weeks to remove and bring in materials for the excavation.

The northbound lane of Burnham Road will be closed until the third week of September for utility work on the east side of the road.

The new freight bridge over the Kenilworth Channel is complete and a demolition of the old bridge will occur in early September, according to the Met Council. Construction of the new light-rail bridge is expected to start after Labor Day.

The large dirt surcharges at the future sites of the 21st Street and Bryn Mawr stations have achieved necessary compaction and will be excavated in the coming weeks. Work on the 21st Street Station is expected to start this fall.