Minnesota GOP: No money for Southwest LRT

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The project has been planned for nearly a decade, has been the subject of legal action, escalating costs and delayed timelines.

But the most serious threat to the future of the proposed Southwest Light Rail Line that would connect downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie came Monday, when the top Republican in the Minnesota House said his party would not approve any state money toward the transit line.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt told MPR News the 16-mile light rail line is not a priority for his caucus.

“I think we need to get real with our priorities in Minnesota on how we spend our transportation dollars. Our plan is to spend them on roads and bridges," he said, according to MPR.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said Democrats who control the Senate are committed to funding the project.

This is just one issue separating the Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature. They each released their proposals for transportation funding in the next budget, and their approaches are completely different. Read more here.

Meredith Vadis, spokeswoman for the Met Council, told FOX 9 that money from the federal government and local sources already accounts for 85 percent of the project's cost.

The state’s share of the $1.6 billion project would be $120 million. But more is at stake than just the amount of money. If the state doesn't put up its share of the funding, the federal government may well back out of the deal as well.

Minnesota is competing with more than a dozen other transit projects around the country for the federal money, which would cover half the cost of the southwest rail line. The longer it takes to firm up the funding and complete the planning and environmental review, the less likely it is the project will get a commitment from the federal government.

Gov. Mark Dayton has weighed in as well, saying he isn't willing to fund the SWLRT project until objections raised by the Minneapolis Park Board over the shallow tunnel design going through city park land are resolved.

The lawsuit filed in September by the Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis claims the Metropolitan Council and the Federal Transit Administration haven’t adequately studied the environmental impact of the light rail plan.

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