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A new report on Southwest Light Rail lists problems with transparency

The Met Council has not been forthcoming with problems, according to the Office of Legislative Auditor.

ST PAUL, Minnesota — The Southwest Light Rail saga continues.

Wednesday at the Capitol, a report from the Office of Legislative Auditor questioned the Metropolitan Council's decision-making process on the project.

The report finds the Met Council wasn't transparent to the public about extra costs involved with the project and the number of delays.

This has led to some lawmakers saying the Met Council should be an elected body instead of an appointed one.

"It needs to be elected, quite frankly," Minneapolis DFL Rep. Frank Hornstein said. "This is an agency that is appointed. They have tremendous powers of taxation. A lot of projects they are involved with are very important to the region."

Hornstein added, "There are critical decisions to be made with additional money to be appropriated from where we don't know to complete the project. There are so many things that they have done wrong that need to be corrected immediately."

"Decisions regarding the planning and development of transitway projects span decades, impacting future costs and risk. The SWLRT project, with all its complexities, is more than 70% complete in implementing the Locally Preferred Alternative approved by municipalities along the route and developed over multiple administrations," Met Council Chair Charles Zelle said in a letter of response, which was filed in the report.

"As the project has encountered construction and financial challenges, the Met Council has addressed issues and options with funding partners who have repeatedly rejected an option to shutter or delay the project. Funding partners continue to commit to finding solutions as the project progresses. Once complete, the SWLRT project will add 14.5 miles to the existing METRO Green Line and connect major activity centers in the region. The Project has already attracted more than $2 billion in new and planned development along its route."

Among the recommendations by the Legislative Auditor for future light rail construction projects is that the Met Council inform lawmakers of cost overruns or project delays.

The entire report can be found here.

Service on the light rail transit is expected to begin in 2027.

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