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$205 million contract awarded for Twin Cities light rail line

By Bill Clements
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — The Metropolitan Council has awarded the first major heavy construction contract for the Central Corridor Light Rail line — a $205 million contract for the eastern or St. Paul portion of the project, which covers seven miles of the 11-mile transit line.

The contract will go to Chicago-based Walsh Construction — once the Federal Transit Administration gives the light rail project its final approval in the form of a “final full-funding grant agreement,” which means the feds will pay half of the project’s cost.

Construction on the eastern portion is expected to begin in August at Robert and 12th streets north of I-94 near the state Capitol, according to the Met Council.

Bids for the heavy construction work on the light rail project’s western or Minneapolis portion will be opened July 27. The Met Council is scheduled to award that contract Aug. 25.

In addition, the council authorized Chairman Peter Bell and Regional Administrator Tom Weaver to negotiate with the city of St. Paul a joint powers agreement to govern an account to help restore some of the losses that businesses along the transit line may encounter during construction of the project.

The process of establishing the business loan program is in the early stages — early enough that the program doesn’t yet have an official name.

The loan program aims “to help provide a modest ‘safety net’ for small businesses that undertake advance business planning for the CCLRT project but still experience significant loss of sales due to more limited customer access” during construction, according to a Met Council staff report.

The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, which is made up of several private foundations, is mulling whether to contribute $500,000 to the loan program, said the Collaborative’s executive director, Jonathan Sage-Martinson.

The Met Council has promised to put $1 million into the loan program, but the loans will not be forgivable — a move that disappointed those organizing the loan program.

“We were hoping (the loans) would be forgivable,” said Nancy Homans, policy director in the office of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Now, the loans are recourse loans: If a business that gets one defaults, St. Paul would be on the hook to repay the loan to the Met Council.

Still, Homans said, organizers behind the loan program are grateful to have money on the table to kick things off.

“The next step is actually to design the program and figure out who will administer it,” Homans said.

In its current form, the proposed joint powers agreement anticipates that interest-free loans made with money that the Met Council provided would be repayable on a deferred basis for a loan period developed by the parties to the joint powers agreement, according to the Met Council staff report.

3 comments

  1. St. Paul … another City That Gets It.

    In the meantime, Milwaukee is saddled with the chronic obstructionist Scott Walker and his barely-concealed roadbuilder-industry ties, who continues to stymie anything that doesn’t directly benefit Big Oil and Bigger Highways.

  2. Minneapolis had the same right wing rail haters as Milwaukee, but were smart enough not to listen. “Costs too much!” “No one will ride it!” “Dangerous to motorists and pedestrians.” All the usual lies.

    Only, nearly 30,000 people a day do ride the light rail – a far cry from no one. It has proved far safer than buses and less than half as expensive to operate that the bus line it replaced. And people have seen that property values along the light rail have risen sharply, even in the recession.

    The anti-rail forces are pretty good at convincing fearful, un-knowing communities that this rail stuff is a bad idea. What is really remarkable is how bad they are at convincing cities that do put in rail, nearly all of which have added more lines as soon as people see how well the first line is. People see it, ride it, and get the idea.

  3. The difference here is the twin cities placed their first line from their airport to a viable downtown… one end even has the Mall of America on it…
    Where is Milwaukee proposing theirs? From a “self contained college area” to nowhere… maybe if they proposed a line from the airport to downtown and then to Waukesha, it might gain some support… future expansion could then be to the north shore (Mequon), NW to Germantown and SW to New Berlin.
    They also need to include big draws like the Summerfest Grounds, Bradley Center, Miller Park and State Fair as very convienent stops, not blocks long walks.
    Once again, Milwaukee is trying to “cheap out”

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