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Federal funding for Southwest Light Rail advances to Congress

The Metropolitan Council is hopeful Congress will award the nearly $929 million grant.

A key piece of federal funding for the Southwest Light Rail Project is a step closer to being awarded. 

The Trump administration has advanced the Southwest LRT Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) to Congress, the Metropolitan Council said in a news release Wednesday. The FFGA would free up nearly $929 million in federal funds, covering nearly half of the cost of the $2 billion project. 

“This is incredible news for the Twin Cities and state of Minnesota,” Gov. Tim Walz said in the release. “The Southwest Light Rail Project will be transformative for so many communities when complete and encapsulates the idea of a One Minnesota."

The Southwest Light Rail is already under construction with service expected to begin in 2023. The 14.5-mile line, which is an extension of the Green Line, will connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie through the cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka.

The Trump Administration's signal of intent Wednesday sends the FFGA to Congress for a 30-day notification, the Met Council says, noting it's hopeful it will be awarded.

"Now that the president’s administration has taken this step, I am confident members of Congress will also see the incredible value this project provides for the communities it will serve, the Twin Cities region, and the State of Minnesota," Hennepin County Commissioner and Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority Chair Jan Callison said in the release.

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The money from the Federal Transit Administration will mean the project is completed using federal, state and local funds. Previously, the administration granted the project four Letters of No Prejudice, which allowed local money to be spent and construction to advance prior to being awarded the FFGA. 

The Met Council says the project is the largest infrastructure project in state history and will create nearly 7,500 jobs. In the decade after the light rail begins service, the Met Council expects employment to grow by 18% within a half-mile of the proposed stations and expects population along the line to increase by 56% from 2014 to 2035.

There was less favorable news for hopes of extending the Blue Line to Brooklyn Park, with the Met Council announcing talks with BNSF Railway over sharing part of its freight line have broken down.

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