The agency in charge of the $1.9 billion Minneapolis Southwest light-rail project opened bids from four construction teams on Tuesday and is expected to select a winning proposal sometime this fall, according to the StarTribune.
The Ames Kraemer SWLRT Joint Venture had the lowest bid ($797 million); followed by Lunda/C.S. McCrossan ($808 million); Southwest Rail Constructors ($1.07 billion); and Southwest Transit Constructors ($1.08 billion). The Metropolitan Council delayed the bid opening three times in the wake of "hundreds of technical questions" from bidders. It did not say whether any of the proposals fell within its budget guidelines.
The Council has also reached track-sharing agreements with rail companies, a necessary step to qualify for $929 million in federal matching funds. The winning bidder is expected to start construction on the rail line next spring, with completion scheduled for 2021.
That the 14.5-mile Southwest LRT project, which will connect downtown Minneapolis and the city's southwest suburbs, has made it this far is a matter of sheer determination on the part of the Council and project supporters.
After the legislature voted down a measure that would have seen the state provide the balance of cash necessary for the project to secure nearly $1 billion of matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Council rallied neighboring counties, which kicked in enough to fill the gap themselves.
So intent were state Republican lawmakers on scuttling the project, however, that they petitioned the FTA to divert any future grant money to state road and bridge projects instead. They were ultimately unsuccessful, with the FTA responding that such an action was illegal.
The Council must also resolve legal challenges concerning the project's environmental impact before it can move forward.
A similar situation is playing out in Maryland. An unexpected legal decision regarding the $5.6 billion Purple Line light-rail project, in Washington, DC's northwest suburbs, delayed construction for almost a year and threatened to kill the project altogether.
A federal judge revoked the rail's federal and state approvals last year, which also cancelled a $900 million FTA grant. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon agreed with an environmental group, and others party to a lawsuit, that claimed the rail's ridership estimates were not accurate. Leon ordered a supplemental review be performed, which would have taken months and delayed the project further, but a federal appeals court reversed Leon's decision, paving the way for construction to begin and for project officials to reapply for FTA funding.