Route map of Southwest Light Rail Transit

The process to decide who will be awarded the contract to build the Southwest Light Rail Transit line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie has been delayed again by the Metropolitan Council.

A Sept. 26 letter from Met Council Chair Alene Tchorumoff to Hennepin County and municipal officers said the council needed another 45 days to decide who will be awarded the civil construction contact, expected to be around $800 million. It marks the second delay in the current bid awarding process, after the council asked for a 60-day extension in July that had a deadline of Sept. 30.

Tchorumoff said the Met Council used those 60 days to secure three key objectives for completing the project: completing railroad negotiations with Twin Cities and Western Railroad, getting authorization from the Surface Transportation Board for ownership of the Kenliworth Corridor and Bass Lake Spur, and completing and receiving a risk assessment report from the Federal Transportation Administration.

The extension for the Metro Green Line, which would run from downtown Minneapolis through St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka to Eden Prairie, would be 14.5 miles and have 15 stations.

She wrote the Met Council and Hennepin County submitted a request for a letter of no prejudice to the FTA on Aug. 29, and the FTA is still currently reviewing the request. The FTA is expected to give the project a $929 million grant, a little less than half the price tag of the $2 billion project. The letter is seen as a sign of commitment from the FTA.

“Receipt of the LONP is necessary before we can move forward with awarding the civil construction contract,” Tchorumoff wrote in the letter. “The FTA is currently reviewing the request. Because of that, the Council today is requesting an additional 45-day extension from the two civil construction bidders.”

She added if they receive a LONP before the 45-day extension, they would work to award a bid quickly. The two bidders are Lunda/C.S. McCrossan at $799,514,338 and Ames Kraemer at $812,125,583. The bidders will have until Sept. 28 to respond, according to Metro Transit spokesperson Laura Baenen.

If the bid is awarded this year, it would likely still be until 2019 for real construction to begin, but some preparation work could occur this fall, the letter said.

The Met Council rejected the original four civil construction bids in September 2017 and opted to seek new bids. The decision also pushed back the expected opening date for the LRT from 2022 to 2023.