Minnesota Legislature Blocks Southwest Corridor Light Rail

by Joel Mandella

Southwest_lrt

The Southwest Corridor LRT line would span 15.5 miles, and pass through the cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, and near Edina. It would create a clean transportation choice for the region, over 60,000 jobs and provide over 30,000 weekday rides per day by 2030.

But at the close of the 2012 state legislative session on May 11, preliminary work on the Southwest Corridor Light Rail was unexpectedly postponed after the Republican-led Minnesota Legislature denied a $25 million bonding request from the Metropolitan Council. The bonds were needed to fund preliminary engineering for the project, and with construction scheduled to begin in 2014, this lack of funds presents a serious and immediate obstacle.

Hiawatha_lrt

The lack of state funding not only prevents the project from moving forward, but also jeopardizes the chances that the light rail project will receive a large grant from the federal government. Over the course of three years needed to construct the Southwest Corridor Light Rail, the Federal Transit Administration agreed to pay $625 million of the total $1.25 billion, but only if the state contributes 10% of the total funds for the project. The $25 million in bonds recently denied by the Minnesota Legislature are necessary preliminary contributions towards the project, and without these funds the development of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail is placed lower on the priority list for federally funded transportation projects.

In an attempt to keep the project on schedule, planners will apply for funds from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). However, DEED funds are highly competitive, and it is uncertain whether requests by the Southwest Corridor project will be successful.

Southwest LRT will help move Minnesotans beyond oil. Thousands of daily commuters will be able to leave their gasoline powered cars at home and get whisked to work on electric propelled rail.  Do you want to see clean transportation choices and economic development in the Southwest metro?  We want to hear from you!  Please contact joshua.houdek@sierraclub.org or click here to get involved today!

Joel Mandella is a Sierra Club North Star Chapter Policy and Communications Intern.

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