How is This Worth It?
By Andrew Richter
Oh what a shock!
Following the Minnesota Legislature’s failed attempt at passing a transportation bill in the last session and two canceled Blue Line Extension Corridor Management Committee meetings in June, the committee reconvened to discuss the updated project scope and budget on July 7.
The last project scope and budget was discussed in late October 2015, when the line was expected to cost $1.5 billion. That estimate came after only 15 percent of the project was complete. At the time, project staff knew there would be additional costs associated with the line in the future.
Now, eight months later, project staff has completed 30 percent of the project’s development. On July 7, Project Director Dan Solar reviewed items that have been added. According to Solar, project partners such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin County and others are required to pay for benefits received as part of the project.
For MnDOT, this means funding $8.2 million for the mill and overlay of Highway 55, 50 percent removal and replacement of existing traffic signals on Highway 55 and the relocation of Bassett Creek stormwater tunnel. Hennepin County will also need to provide $4.1 million to go toward a portion of West Broadway Avenue north of Highway 610 to Winnetka Avenue.
Finally, Brooklyn Park is required to pay $8.2 million for various segments of street and utilities work north of Highway 610. The additional funds allows an increase in matching federal funds, if received, from $19.6 million to $752.7 million, but does not increase the Counties Transit Improvement Board, Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority or state’s cost participation. When it comes to the overall project cost, two large components are adding expenses. Advanced design, which consists of bridge refinement, parking ramps, rail system elements, traffic signal adjustments, retaining walls and a reduction in traction power substations, adds $26 million to the overall project cost.
Seriously! Does anyone care about the taxpayer?
Environmental mitigations and requirements including noise walls, Sochacki Park restoration, visual screening in Crystal, secondary access to the Plymouth Avenue station, retaining walls, eliminating the crossing closure at 39 1/2 Avenue and relocating the Bassett Creek tunnel equates to an additional $14 million.
The combined $40 million in additional costs brings the overall project cost to $1.54 billion.
If all scope additions — at-grade improvements at 63rd Avenue, pedestrian bridge at Bass Lake Road, Rail Control Center modification, Hiawatha Operations and Maintenance Facility modifications and rail crossings and gates north of Highway 610 — are included, it would add another $31 million to the project. These funds could be covered through contingency funds, however. The contingency funds could then be reduced from 30 percent to 28 percent.
Anoka County Commissioner Scott Schulte was most concerned about the suggested reduction in contingency funding. He said there are continued risks that could increase the project cost therefore requiring the full 30 percent contingency. He also believes it is problematic to “mix controls,” meaning either the Met Council controls maintenance of the entire line including bridges or not. “I think there’s too many wants in this and not enough needs,” he said.
The entire project is a want not a need you idiot!
Crystal Mayor Jim Adams spoke up about Crystal being told it needed to fund maintenance of a pedestrian bridge at County Road 81. “The discussions we’ve had are not consistent with us taking on that cost,” he said. “We didn’t find out about this until three hours ago. We haven’t had a chance to vet that out. We were under the impression this would be part of Met Council’s expense.”
Yes, Jim Adams is right. I was at those council meeting and heard the Met Council hired gun say just that.
Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris requested estimates for what bridge maintenance in Crystal would cost. “I hope it’s not a deal breaker since we’ve gone through all this,” he said. Adams agreed his city needs figures. “If I were to guess, I would think it would be a deal breaker, and that’s a very tough thing to say,” he said. “We really strongly feel this is a metro transit driven cost. It is something to support the vision of the region.”
Met Council Chair Adam Duininck provided his opinion on the issue. “From my vantage point, it’s always been uncertain who would pay for that,” he said. “No one volunteered. I think everyone assumed someone else would pay. I don’t think it’s a cost that we were hoping or thinking we’d take on.”
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat said it was clear that the cost of the pedestrian bridge maintenance would be between Crystal and the Met Council. “It’s the fact that this is dropping in at the last minute that makes it hard to bear,” he said. Adams said he would love to have a conversation with the Met Council prior to the next corridor management committee meeting.
How would you know Opat? Why don’t you just stay out of it and go build another monument to yourself?
After much back and forth, Solar stated that local improvements have always been identified as outside of the project scope. With no other concerns, project staff informed the committee that the Federal Transportation Authority approved the publication of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The entire 3,200 page document is anticipated to release Friday, July 15. The Final Environmental Impact Statement will be available at all corridor libraries and city halls as well as online at metrocouncil.org.
Over the next two months, project staff will finalize the project scope and budget.
Once the final project scope and budget are determined, project staff can apply for financing and enter into the engineering phase, which will bring the project up to 60 percent completion.
This project is such a disaster!!! Maybe we can get ReNae Bowman to pay for it all!
Entry filed under: Agenda 21, Brooklyn Park, City Government, Community, County, Crystal, Environment, Golden Valley, Hennepin, Mayor, Met Council, Robbinsdale, Taxation, Transportation. Tags: Blue Line, Jim Adams, Mike Opat.