During a routine meeting Wednesday morning the Southwest Light Rail Extension hit an unexpected snag. Now, the Minneapolis Mayor's office is gearing up for battle.
The nearly 16-mile connection from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie will be the largest transportation project in Twin Cities history. Representatives from Transportation Technology Center Inc. or TTCI, traveled to the Twin Cities from Colorado yesterday. TTCI met with the Met Council to consider taking on the job as consultants for the project, but Wednesday morning, TTCI backed out of the project citing a conflict of interest. TTCI is a well-known arm of the Association of American Railroads.
What surprised Peter Wagenious from Mayor Rybak's office even more was that Met Council chair Susan Haig says there's no need to hire another consulting firm.
"This isn't Mayberry where there is one doctor, one lawyer, one guy that works out at the rail yard if the person they hired refuses to do the job," Wagenious said. "Hire someone else. It's pretty simple."
"Previously that was known that they did work for the freight rail roads," said spokesperson for the Met Council, Laura Baenen. "They weren't going to commit to even doing the work until they came and met with us face to face."
"TTCI really verified our offices work.. so that was very encouraging, and positive development. They did review that and said that the project staff did very through and good work," Baenen added.
Chairman of the House Transportation Finance Committee, Representative Frank Hornstein is calling on the Met Council to reconsider, and hire another consultant firm.
"We can't trust what they are saying they have a conflict of interest," said Hornstein. "And that fact that the met council is even trusting what they are saying with this conflict of interest is deeply concerning."
"We need someone to push back against the railroads and say do you really need that? In order to get the tax payers the best deal. We want to make sure we are not just building a light rail line. We are building it at a good price" Wagenious said.