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Home / Environment / Discovery of asbestos adds to Minn. rail project cost

Discovery of asbestos adds to Minn. rail project cost

By Bill Clements
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Workers searched for underground contaminants at the site of a new light rail support facility under construction in Minneapolis.

They dug holes, did test borings and even used radar to check under the ground that used to house a rail yard, said Tom Thorstenson, director of engineering and facilities for Metro Transit of the Metropolitan Council.

But the testing failed to identify an underground pipeline coated with asbestos that runs almost the length of the 4.5-acre site. The problem was not discovered until after construction of the $5 million support facility started in September.

“You like to have 100 percent assurance, when digging a hole, that you’ll find everything, but you can’t have that on some of these older sites,” Thorstenson said.

Project officials said they believe the pipeline was a steam line, said Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons.

Gibbons said the facility, being built to accommodate the growing light rail transit system here, will serve rail support staff that maintains the right-of-way, power distribution, signal system and track.

Workers also found a second underground diesel storage tank — they had identified and removed one such tank before construction started — and a few other items that need to be removed.

But Thorstenson said it’s the asbestos coating the steam pipeline that needs to be removed with special care, according to rules set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

And the required work likely will boost the project cost above what had been planned for with the 5 percent contingency set-aside. Met Council rules require council approval when the cost of a construction project exceeds the contingency.

The council last month gave Metro Transit the authority to increase the price of the construction contract with South St. Paul-based Meisinger Construction Co. to 10 percent above the $5 million price tag, or by $500,000.

How much the extra underground remediation work will cost is unknown, but “it’s likely we’ll finish above the 5 percent but within the 10 percent,” Thorstenson said.

The new support building will have 33,000 square feet, including 6,000 square feet for offices, 14,000 for workshops, 9,000 for storage of rail support vehicles and 4,000 for materials storage, according to Gibbons.

The exterior walls will be textured precast concrete, he said, adding that the goal is to have the building ready for occupancy by next fall.

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