MN Republicans to feds: Keep your $900M in light rail funding

State lawmakers who have fought against a Twin Cities light rail project are urging the U.S. not to fund it.

More than 80 Republicans in the legislature are urging the U.S. government to keep about $900 million the Transportation Department is thinking about sending to Minnesota to build a light rail line.

The $1.8 billion line connecting Minneapolis with suburbs to the southwest has been in the planning stages for years. It's nearing the end of that process and the Twin Cities agency overseeing it hopes the feds will agree to cover half the cost so construction of the 14-mile line can start by the end of the year.

But the lawmakers' letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao calls it a "grossly wasteful project" and argues against any federal funding for it. They say the light rail line is not a good use of money and comes with some environmental concerns.

Most of those who signed it are from outside the Twin Cities area and all of them are Republicans. The letter was posted online by MPR News.

Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat who supports the rail line, tells the network canceling the project would lead to "nighmarish" traffic jams in the southwestern Twin Cities. "It's going to constrict the economic vitality of this entire region which affects the entire state," Dayton said. "So, it's very short-sighted."

Change in Washington could be a factor

The Metropolitan Council, which runs Metro Transit, is planning the line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. Its critics in the Legislature have fought against the project, blocking state funding for it.

But the Green Line Extension, as the Met Council calls it, has moved ahead on the strength of local funding. The federal government has signaled, as recently as December, that's it's on board with the project, too.

But there have been some changes in Washington this year. The Trump administration is generally seen as less friendly to public transit than President Obama was. The Star Tribune notes that grants like the $900 million Minnesota might get would disappear under President Trump's budget recommendation.

Less transit money from the state Capitol, too

Regardless of whether the new rail line gets built, the Republican majority in Minnesota's legislature is sending the message that it wants the state to spend less on transit.

The transportation bill rolled out by the House GOP this week emphasizes highways and it would cut transit funding to the Metropolitan Council by $53 million, Session Daily reports.

It would also prohibit local governments from doing any studies or construction of new light rail transit unless they get approval from the state legislature.

Next Up

Jorge Polanco

Shoemaker, Twins lineup rebounds against Tigers

Jorge Polanco homered in a 7-3 victory over Detroit.

Kirill Kaprizov / Minnesota Wild

Watch: Kaprizov's OT winner lifts Wild into 2nd place in West

Kaprizov's goal gave the Wild a 3-2 victory over the Ducks.

Byron Buxton

Buxton placed on IL, Trevor Larnach called up

Buxton could be out "for weeks" with a hip strain.

A bald eagle perched on branches.

USFWS confirms 2 bald eagles were shot dead

The agency is offering a reward for information in the case.

A newborn baby, wrapped in a blanket with its mother.

Most popular baby names includes one not in top 10 for 100 years

But Olivia and Liam once again led the way for girls and boys.

Minnesota Lottery

Names of big Minnesota Lottery winners to be kept private thanks to new law

The Minnesota Legislature passed the bill unanimously and Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law this week.

FLickr - COVID-19 vaccination - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces

All 8 state COVID-19 vaccine sites now accept walk-ins

Adults can get a no-cost vaccine without making an appointment.


Report: Vikings owners nearing purchase of Orlando City MLS franchise

The Wilfs reportedly attempted to buy the Minnesota United expansion franchise years ago.

bemidji paul bunyan

Video shows the moment someone broke the Paul Bunyan statue's arm

Police are asking for the public's help to identify those involved.

bridgeman's food truck duluth

Last remaining Bridgeman's Restaurant is launching a food truck

The Duluth restaurant is the only remaining full-service Bridgeman's in business.


light rail

On track: Southwest Light Rail project gets final piece of funding

The $928.8 million funding grant will pay for the completion of the Green Line Light Rail Extension.

All aboard! The Blue Line light rail extension is moving ahead

Construction on the line could begin next year.

Light rail trains will be powered by the wind for Earth Day

For 24 hours, the light rail trains will be powered by wind.

Parts of some Metro Transit light rails won't run this weekend

Parts of the Blue and Green lines won't run this weekend.

No fare: More people are cheating the light rail's ticket honor system

The percentage of fare evaders has nearly doubled in two years.

Backers of light rail in southwest suburbs fear loss of federal money

Money for a light rail transit line connecting Minneapolis and its southwest suburbs was left out of the state-funded construction projects approved by the House. Backers of the line say federal funds for the project will be forfeited if the state fails to put up $25 million toward it.

4 ways buses and trains could be hurt by House bill, according to transit officials

Fares could go up and service could be cut – by quite a bit.