Feds Say Southwest Light Rail Funds Can’t Be Redirected to Roads and Bridges


Republican lawmakers think SWLRT funds would be better suited on other transportation projects

St. Paul, MN – The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) say Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project funds can’t be redirected to Minnesota roads and bridges.

Alpha News previously reported on a bicameral effort to divert $929 million in federal funds from the SWLRT project to a block grant that could be used to fund a variety of other transportation projects in Minnesota. Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) and Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) are leading the fight against what they call a failing project with an astronomical price tag.

The FTA are now shooting down the effort saying that “by law, [Capital Investment Grant] funding may be used only on major transit capital projects. It may not be used for roads, bridges, or other transportation projects.”

However, Republicans aren’t going to back down on their requests.

“Just because something isn’t “legal” now should never preclude you from asking, or challenging what is “legal” now.  Why can’t we ask for Minnesota to be the first to receive a block grant instead of being forced into a light rail system that doesn’t fit Minnesota’s future?” Osmek wrote in an email to Alpha News.

The SWLRT project is estimated to cost almost $2 billion to complete. The Metropolitan Council is required to secure half the total cost through local sources before applying for a federal matching grant. The Met Council expects to receive the full federal grant amount by mid-2017.

Taxpayers not only foot a large portion of the bill for building the extension, but they also will face large operating costs. Osmek estimates the SWLRT will cost Minnesotans upwards of $20 million each year.

“The Met Council is, by building this rail line, committing the taxpayers of Minnesota to $20-$30 million in operating subsidies every year.  It is breathtaking that the unelected, unaccountable, out-of-control Met Council can think they have the legal or moral authority to do this.” Osmek wrote.

The Met Council Chair Adam Duininck fired back during a Southwest Corridor Management Committee meeting calling the resolution a “reckless attempt to create confusion and misinformation.”

Republicans believe there is nothing illegal about the resolution, instead saying they are looking out for taxpayers hard-earned dollars.

“Taxation without representation is alive and well, and the rule of thumb for the Met Council.” Osmek concluded.

Christine Bauman
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