MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Xcel Energy has begun moving underground utilities to make way for light rail here, despite an ongoing challenge to the conditions state officials imposed when they granted the construction permits.
Kent Larson, Xcel Energy vice president for Minnesota, said the work began Friday. The start date was announced earlier this week.
Although Xcel crews started sawing concrete Friday, the company still has 16 major objections to some of the permit conditions issued by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
"Xcel Energy is extremely disappointed that weeks of negotiations have been wasted. ... MnDOT unilaterally dictated terms and conditions that had previously been rejected by Xcel Energy," Larson wrote to the chief of staff at the transportation department Thursday.
MnDOT officials would not comment Friday on those continuing objections.
Xcel officials said the requirements would raise the cost of relocation, which already was estimated at $18 million. The company said it will seek a judicial review of the permit's "onerous and unacceptable terms."
Xcel Energy's decision to start moving the utility lines was nonetheless a major move forward for the $675 million Hiawatha Line, which will eventually link downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America. The line's first phase is scheduled to open in 2003.
For more than a year, state and company officials have argued over whether the company could be forced to move its utility lines in downtown Minneapolis and who would have to pay for it. That question remains unresolved.
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