Metro Transit named public transit 'System of the Year'

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The Twin Cities is home to the public transportation 'System of the Year.'

Metro Transit, the largest transportation provider in the state, was honored Wednesday with American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) 2016 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award.

The award, also known as the 'System of the Year' award, will be formally presented to Metro Transit at APTA's annual meeting in September.

Metro Transit, which on average gives nearly 300,000 rides every week day, has two light rail lines, more than 100 bus routes and a commuter rail line. The agency says the regional transit network has had a "profound effect, creating communities that are more equitable, economically competitive and sustainable."

Metro Transit has plans to celebrate its honor, including an appreciation event at Target Field Station on Sept. 24. More details will be announced later.

Watch the news conference from Wednesday morning's announcement here or below:

Green Line extension

The award comes as Metro Transit continues its push to build the Southwest Light Rail line – an extension of the Green Line – into the western suburbs.

The proposed 14.5 mile transit line, which would run from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, is projected to open in 2021, with construction set to begin next year, Eden Prairie News reported.

However there's been some controversy with the line, including where to put the tracks and how to fund it. It was a sticking point for lawmakers during this year's legislative session, and funding for the line wasn't approved.

And the Metropolitan Council said Monday "inaction" by legislators to provide the remaining funding for the light rail line has caused delays, which has raised the cost estimate for the project by $19 million, bringing the total to an estimated $1.858 billion.

"The cost of inaction is real, large, and one that falls on the taxpayers of this region,” Council Chair Adam Duininck said in a news release.

"We have been very clear that SWLRT needed to secure the remaining funding during the 2016 legislative schedule to stay on time, avoid delay costs and remain a strong project with the FTA. We negotiated in good faith with this deadline in mind. This project has wide and bipartisan support in every community it travels through – it’s time for action."

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