Rail

Hiawatha light rail opening postponed

Posted on February 18, 2004

Anticipating a strike by employees for Metro Transit in Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Council decided Tuesday to delay opening of the Hiawatha light-rail line indefinitely.

Officials for the council, which oversees Metro Transit, said the looming strike by 2,200 Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 members could present serious operating problems to the opening of the long-awaited light rail service.

The $715-million Hiawatha line, originally scheduled to open April 3, will be run by Metro Transit, which also operates bus services in the Twin Cities. Union operators, who are expected to strike, drive both trains and buses.

Union members overwhelmingly voted Monday to give their leaders permission to strike, but no strike date has yet been set. Union officials said reduced retirement benefits and increased health care costs are the causes of the looming strike.

The Hiawatha project can open anytime before Dec. 31 without losing federal funding.

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