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Southwest Light Rail Still Has A Chance

Category: Economy
Posted: 05/24/12 21:39

by Dave Mindeman

I was near the Capitol today and was driving around trying to find a ramp back to I-35E. There was a lot of detours and construction....I am assuming that a lot of it was for the Central Corridor project.

This is another of the projects that should have been started long ago. We can complain about the street blockages and detours, but the fact is that if we had that line in place we could have more convenient and efficient commutes through downtown St. Paul. Progress probably would have been less costly if we had gotten the funding and work started longer ago. But we don't seem to learn the lessons of looking ahead.

Which brings me to the Southwest Light Rail project. This is a project that is in line to get a Federal grant. A large portion of the cost can be picked up by the Federal government. A chance to reclaim more than that 72 cents on the Federal dollar that we get back from our Federal taxes. (Are you listening, Congressman Kline?)

But that money is not guaranteed. The state has to put in 10% of the project funding now or we lose the grant and it goes somewhere else. The Governor had asked for that money in the bonding bill but our Republican legislature refused, continuing a pattern of blocking transit and thwarting Federal investment in Minnesota.

Business leaders are begging for this project....

If the state doesn't fund the light rail line this year, Todd Klingel, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, says the state risks losing that matching money. "This is about jobs and this is the most powerful leveraging opportunity that they could have for anything in the bonding bill," he says, "and that if nothing happens that opportunity could be lost."

We still have a possibility.

Now, planners say they will try to keep the LRT on track with funding assistance from the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Some undesignated money (via the bondng bill) was given to DEED to fund projects that the office would determine most needed it. Well, here you are. The SW Rail project not only is necessary but it gives you a Federal return as well.

Unfortunately, we have another ball park looking for money as well. The St. Paul Saints are also going to make a pitch.....

Other high-profile projects, including a new St. Paul Saints baseball stadium, are also seeking a piece of the roughly $47.5 million in development money granted to DEED by state lawmakers before the end of the session

Personally, I thought the Saints ballpark should have been part of the bonding package. After all, the St. Paul side of the equation was not exactly balanced overall. However, if priorities are to be ascertained for this DEED fund, then SW Rail is by far the wiser choice.

Still I use the term "wiser" choice loosely. After all, we did get a billion dollar Vikings stadium.....wise choices seem to be out of character these days.
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