Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

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David Greene
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 27th, 2015, 8:12 pm

acs wrote:While this isn't officially dead yet, what will kill it finally is the NIMBY lawsuits from Kenilworth and Minnetonka. The supplemental DEIS which exposed these costs
The SDEIS has nothing to do with this and this has no impact on any pending lawsuits. This is normal engineering work. This is how engineering works. You refine the design and do testing and if something significant pops up, you re-evaluate and re-design.

The level of ignorance about this on display is amazing. Either people just don't understand how we build things or they are pushing a political agenda.

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Nick
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Nick » April 27th, 2015, 8:15 pm

Who isn't pushing a political agenda? What does that even mean?

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 27th, 2015, 8:17 pm

Nick wrote:Maybe some people on Twitter are being hysterical, but also this is an enormous debacle, and it is weird to me how some people (perhaps explicitly trying to even out the hysteria) just keep whistling and looking off into the distance.
I don't know if you're referring to me but this certainly is serious. What I am trying to do is avoid people jumping to conclusions about how this will play out. Engineers are often good about solving problems. Sometimes they can't.

I'm not looking off into the distance. But I am trying to support the people working the problem and give them some room to breathe.

Heads shouldn't roll over this. I'm reminded of the scene from "From the Earth to the Moon" where one of the junior luner lander engineers sheepishly enters the project manager's office and says that he made a math mistake that cost the project months of work. The manager didn't sack him. He said, "thanks for not BSing about this" and sent him home for a good night's sleep.

Punishing people for stuff like this only leads to people covering up stuff like this in the future because they won't get a fair shake.
Last edited by David Greene on April 27th, 2015, 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

David Greene
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 27th, 2015, 8:21 pm

Anondson wrote:Why not give a cost estimate pessimistically as possible, or with as wide a range as possible?
Because engineers are taught to think about the most likely scenario and revise if that later turns out not to be accurate. It's just not useful to present numers with gigantic error bars, especially when you have no idea of the range of the possible error. They had *1%* information. It's a guess and engineers know it's a guess. It's a stake in the ground to start the work. I don't think anyone could have anticipated a cost increase like this.

Yeah, it sucks, but situations like this happen all the time in design work.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 27th, 2015, 8:23 pm

Nick wrote:Who isn't pushing a political agenda? What does that even mean?
Are you being deliberately obtuse? You think the staff who came forward with this increase are pushing a political agenda?
Some people are panicking because they are ignorant. Others are fanning the panic because they have an ox to gore. Others are talking the appropriate, calm, "let's work the problem" approach.

acs
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby acs » April 27th, 2015, 8:24 pm

David Greene wrote:
acs wrote:While this isn't officially dead yet, what will kill it finally is the NIMBY lawsuits from Kenilworth and Minnetonka. The supplemental DEIS which exposed these costs
The SDEIS has nothing to do with this and this has no impact on any pending lawsuits. This is normal engineering work. This is how engineering works. You refine the design and do testing and if something significant pops up, you re-evaluate and re-design.

The level of ignorance about this on display is amazing. Either people just don't understand how we build things or they are pushing a political agenda.
I'm not the one linking this to the lawsuits, the people suing are, from the strib article:
A spokeswoman for the Lakes and Parks Alliance, which filed suit last fall to block the line, said the group feels “vindicated” by the latest development.

“This is the whole reason why we sued the Met Council,” said Mary Pattock, a spokeswoman for the Alliance. “We knew from the get-go there were environmental problems.”

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Anondson
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » April 27th, 2015, 8:27 pm

I guess my non-engineer brain is suspicious of the strangely certain unlikelihood that estimates never get adjusted down. Maybe it stays the same, maybe it goes up. Estimates don't seem to be adjusted down... An explainer for why estimates like these have a one way momentum would be a nice streets.mn article.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 27th, 2015, 8:27 pm

acs wrote:I'm not the one linking this to the lawsuits, the people suing are
Earlier:
acs wrote:The supplemental DEIS which exposed these costs was only ordered as a result of the Kenilworth lawsuit appealing to the FTA.
You made that link. The SDEIS did NOT expose these costs. Cost refinement is work that would have happened with or without an SDEIS.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » April 27th, 2015, 8:30 pm

Anondson wrote:I guess my non-engineer brain is suspicious of the strangely certain unlikelihood that estimates never get adjusted down. Maybe it stays the same, maybe it goes up. Estimates don't seem to be adjusted down... An explainer for why estimates like these have a one way momentum would be a nice streets.mn article.
Costs have gone down before. Central Corridor came in under its original budget which resulted in all kinds of upgrades. In fact I believe both of our LRT projects came in under budget, resulting in contingency funds being used for upgrades.

Lots of road projects come in under budget too. These days, it's much rarer for projects to go over budget, at least by a significant amount like this. Contractors like to get their early-and-under-budget bonuses.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby mullen » April 27th, 2015, 8:47 pm

how much of the project's funding is certain and what more is left to secure from the state? I've read quotes from peter mclaughlin that they've secured 80%

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby HuskyGrad » April 28th, 2015, 5:06 am

David Greene wrote:Costs have gone down before. Central Corridor came in under its original budget which resulted in all kinds of upgrades. In fact I believe both of our LRT projects came in under budget, resulting in contingency funds being used for upgrades.
You are no longer allowed to use contingency funds on upgrades during construction.


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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Mikey » April 28th, 2015, 5:30 am

How much of Central Corridor's budget actually went to rebuilding a street that desperately needed to be rebuilt anyways?

That was one thing that always angered me about the "Light rail construction killing business" - they rebuilt a road that needed to be rebuilt, and while they were at it, put some tracks down the median instead of grass and trees. Quit blaming the light rail.
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » April 28th, 2015, 6:41 am

mullen wrote:how much of the project's funding is certain and what more is left to secure from the state? I've read quotes from peter mclaughlin that they've secured 80%
Both CTIB (30%) and Hennepin County (10%) have technically voted to support the line via their respective tax streams. However, I have no idea if their prior votes (taken in 2013 and/or 2014 I presume) are tied to specific dollar amounts or if those votes are valid for "whatever it costs".

The state of MN is supposed to contribute 10%, likely through bonding, but it's not clear whether that will happen. The state has contributed a portion of the $59MM already spent, via previous budgets.

The feds typically contribute a full 50% share, but with dwindling federal funds and more competition for transit dollars than ever in history, this has come into question as well. It could potentially drop to 40% depending on when the hell we actually get around to applying for that full funding grant agreement.

If you want to be technical, only 40% of the project funding is fully committed. The feds have signaled strong support for the line, so that's probably a sure bet when we get there, pending some major trimming in the interim. State support for the remainder of their 10% has always been iffy. CTIB/Met Council may have to sell bonds and backfill that portion.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby AccordGuy » April 28th, 2015, 8:21 am

Not a huge contributor to this site, but I do check it out almost on a daily basis. I love light rail and infrastructure projects that benefit our area and make the Twin Cities more livable and easy to navigate. This project has never been a favorite of mine and it's possible cancellation makes me happy. The line should never have been designed to go through the Kennilworth corridor,it should have gone straight south down Nicollet to Lake street and then west from there. It makes more sense to me to place the line where people will actually use it. I know the argument that Eden Prairie residents don't want to go through Uptown, but how many of those residents would have actually used it anyway ?
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Viktor Vaughn » April 28th, 2015, 8:45 am

This news really stings. It’s hard to accept that this light rail plan should be tossed into history’s dustbin with the many unrealized rail plans that came before. It’s difficult to change course after $59M of sunk costs.

Yet, I think we have to treat this news as an opportunity. Before the news of the cost increases Southwest seemed destined to limp along for years yet. Neither completely certain or completely dead the lawsuits and studies will keep the line in limbo. This news, if acted decisively upon, gives political cover to shift to higher transit priorities. It makes me think back to the Wagenius quote that explains why we continue with this logic-defying project.
“There are folks who are extraordinarily invested in validating the process that has brought us to this point”
These cost increases give those people invested in the process cover to do what they should have done a while back – reassess – and come up with a better plan and a better goal.

And I realize I’m not breaking any news here, but this line is so deeply flawed. It’s neither the best use of transit dollars nor the best way to serve this corridor.

Do we really want to spent all this transit money building bridges over or tunnels under 212, 494, 169, 100, and 394? Do we really want to build a 3,500 ft long viaduct through wetlands in Eden Prairie? Are we really going to tunnel under a low-density railroad corridor to appease rich political donors? I can understand defending this line if you’ve invested in land near Royalston, but for the rest of us, this line passed into ridiculousness a while ago – this latest news just gives cover to finally recognize the obvious.

Southwest light rail really has an identity crisis. The technology suggested it’s a Metro Line, but it’s alignment prevented it from hitting those urban nodes that would make it effective.

The alignment suggests it’d mostly be used as a commuter line. But with so many stations and grade crossings, is it going to be even one minute faster that a non-stop Southwest transit coach bus?

So, how do we do better? What’s a more effective use of transit dollars? That’s something to be fleshed out, but here are some starting thoughts.

For much less money, we could serve the commuters with circulator shuttles, park-and-rides, coach buses and MNPass lanes. We already have our grade separated corridors. They are called freeways and we just need to convert a lane on each one to MNPass to get more efficient use out of them.

The Metro aspect of Southwest could be better served by building out the aBRT network. We could build every one of those lines with just a small portion of Southwest’s budget. Let’s build three or four of those lines a year. Let’s also add shelters and amenities to regular bus stops. That will do way more to improve transit for way more people than Southwest ever could.

And finally we need to go back to expanding the rail network. But if we’re going to build rail, we have to get our money’s worth. To get our money’s worth were going to have to tunnel. Let’s figure out how much it cost to build a Hennepin subway from Lake Street to Downtown to University Ave to Stadium Village. Let’s build rail in the gift-wrapped Midtown Greenway corridor. Let’s spend money on rail if it’s going to improve mobility and accessibility. A subway is definitely a reach; we don’t have the mechanisms in place to fund it. We haven’t built the political coalition to advocate for it. Let’s start now.

This three prong strategy -- commuter buses, Arterial BRT, and truly urban rail down the line -- provides benefits to the suburbs and the city. It allows us to start immediately and plan for big improvements in the future.

Southwest rail is either going to limp along for a while yet or die without anything to replace it. As transit advocates, let’s push a plan to give pro-transit politicians cover to abandon this absurd project and pivot to something that will improve mobility for many more.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby fehler » April 28th, 2015, 8:53 am

So, this was adjusted up $300M, that's, what, 20%? Is it really that large of an increase, considering the scope of the project?

And I do like that it was announced before the end of Session. If it was hidden until after the Session, there would have been bigger calls for heads. And, really, this is a suburban commuter line without the support of suburban legislators. They are the ones crying "please, oh please, don't give me a shiny new rail line to improve my community". Put the screws to them, make them state where they stand on the issue. Eden Prairie and Minnetonka need some political skin in the game.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » April 28th, 2015, 9:09 am

Aside from the portion of Eden Prairie outside the 494 beltway (so the last 2 stations, assuming Mitchell Rd is axed), the entire route is represented by Democrats. One Republican is Sen. David Hann, who came within 3 percentage points of defeat in 2012. The other is Representative Jennifer Loon. Regardless, there is strong support from Eden Prairie's Mayor and some councilmembers, evidenced by voting for municipal consent. Has David Hann been particularly vocal in opposition to the line? What about Jennifer Loon? If not, it's fairly incorrect to say that lawmakers along the route don't support it. Even if those two have been strongly opposing the line, their districts begin at the 494 border, containing perhaps the last 1-1.5 miles of the line.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby HiawathaGuy » April 28th, 2015, 9:10 am

I also think it's interesting that the Hiawatha Line, that opened 11 years ago, cost $715.3 milion, which would be upwards of $1.06 billion in 2020 dollars (given a roughly 3% inflation rate). The SW line has far more complex issues than Hiawatha did (bridges, at-grade crossings, property acquisitions, track length, tunnels, etc.)... so to have this line increase the amount it did, based on very real issues, seems understandable to me. I don't understand everyone's quick assumption that this line is now dead.

I also don't understand the idea that if 3A is now projected to be upwards of $2 billion, how 3C wouldn't be at least another $250-$500 million more than that.

Sometimes I just don't understand people not taking a step back to look at the big picture.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby FISHMANPET » April 28th, 2015, 9:20 am

It seems like there's a lot of good ideas involving running this as some kind of actual commuter service rather than true "light rail" but that just keeps running into the 1000 ton brick wall of FRA buff strength requirements that prevent Multiple Unit trains like every other country on the planet runs.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » April 28th, 2015, 9:21 am

Agreed. Also, you should really project out that inflation until 2020. And remember that construction inflation has and will run higher than regular inflation.


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