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Minnesota Vikings not on the hook for bridge cost overruns

The pedestrian bridge connecting light rail to U.S. Bank Stadium is $1 million over budget, but, for once, the Vikings won't have to kick in more money to pay for it.

For once, there is a cost overrun on an ancillary item to U.S. Bank Stadium that doesn’t involve yet another contribution for the Minnesota Vikings to pay.

The pedestrian bridge connecting the light rail system to U.S. Bank Stadium has been a point of contention between the Vikings and Metropolitan Council, which is in charge of safety issues dealing with transportation in the Twin Cities, for the last couple of years. It was learned last week that the final cost of the bridge is $1 million over the original budget and it would appear the Met Council is on the hook to pay for those overages.

The bridge design was expected to be $9.65 million, but the final cost after change orders turned out to be $10.6 million.

Two years ago, when the issue came to light as to whether riders from the Green Line and Blue Line of the light rail system would have to cross traffic on Chicago Avenue or whether an elevated pedestrian bridge would be required, the Met Council claimed that the cost should be handled by the Vikings. Although initially balking at the idea saying it was beyond the scope of the original construction, the Vikings kicked in $6 million toward the project and capped the number as a not-to-exceed figure, meaning any additional costs would not be the problem of the Vikings.

A consultant hired for the project anticipated a cost of $9.6 million, but, after a series of change order spiked that cost upward by $950,000, the Met Council was responsible for paying the additional cost. As things currently stand, the Met Council is seeking to recover more than $465,000 from the design consultant – EVS Inc. of Eden Prairie – for the mistakes in the original design estimates that caused the nearly $1 million increase.

It is believed that one in every four people attending events at the stadium like Vikings games use the pedestrian bridge to access the stadium and it has been well received by Metro Transit, which brings tens of thousands of people to the stadium via light rail.

The Vikings initially balked at contributing to the bridge project when it came to light in 2014, claiming that it had nothing to do with the stadium itself and was more of a transit issue than a stadium issue. However, when it became a political hot potato, the Vikings agreed to pay $3.5 million in exchange for half of the advertising revenue at the U.S. Bank Stadium Station for light rail. A later agreement increased the Vikings contribution to $6 million in exchange for 90 percent of the advertising revenue generated over a 30-year period to recoup its initial investment. Part of that agreement capped the Vikings contribution to not exceed the $6 million for its end of the bridge construction.

At the time, there were contentions that the bridge was constructed merely to meet the needs of Vikings games, but it has since been learned that numerous events held at the stadium that have nothing to do with the Vikings, like concerts and the recent Minnesota State High School League Prep Bowl football championship games, heavily use light rail to get fans to the stadium.

In the past, it has seemed any time there was a cost overrun or a refusal to cut corners on the stadium, the Vikings were asked to contribute more to get the job done. The pedestrian bridge is no exception, but this time the Met Council won’t be coming to the Vikings asking for more money.

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