SAINT PAUL, Minn. – This evening, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation on a vote of 129-1 requiring the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) to conduct a special review and program evaluation for the extension of the Green Line, commonly known as the Southwest light rail (LRT) project.
“This bipartisan audit is about transparency, accountability, and oversight,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, author of the measure and chair of the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. “Minnesotans need answers to why this project is delayed and significantly over budget.”
Under the legislation, the OLA will examine the reasons for project delays and cost increases, whether the schedule and costs were properly managed, and whether the Met Council gave sufficient scrutiny to route decisions and design choices that have changed project plans and costs.
“Minnesotans deserve a robust, modern public transit system – including light rail – but they should expect it to work, and to be fixed when there are delays, cost overruns, and other complications,” Rep. Hornstein continued. “We have full faith that the Office of the Legislative Auditor will do a comprehensive and effective review and evaluation.”
The OLA will evaluate current practices on cost estimating, contracting, negotiations, management, and hiring resulting in cost overruns or cause schedule delays. The legislation also requires the OLA and the Met Council to perform a cost-benefit analysis of the project and analyze the level of financial risk of further changes. Rep. Hornstein’s bill will also make the OLA structure recommendations on how the Met Council and Hennepin County can avoid overruns and delays, mitigate risks, assure quality, and increase transparency.
Discussion of a potential light rail line in the corridor began more than 30 years ago and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) included a potential future line from Minneapolis to Hopkins in their 1988 Comprehensive Light Rail Transit System Plan. The idea saw a number of considerations and iterations in the years that followed in various plans and studies including both LRT and busway concepts. The 14.5-mile extension of the Green Line route which began operations in 2014, currently runs between St. Paul and Minneapolis. The extension would provide additional service from Target Field Station to Eden Prairie, traveling through Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, and Minnetonka.