Minnesota Mass Transit projects keep spending tax dollars, despite no legislative funding

Alpha News reported back in April and May about the $485 million 12-mile dedicated bus roadway from brtdowntown St. Paul to Woodbury known as the Gateway Corridor or the Gold Line.  The project has support from Senators Susan Kent, D-Woodbury, and Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, as well as Representatives JoAnn Ward, D-Woodbury, and Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury.

This week, the Pioneer Press reported that the Gold Line will receive a $1 million federal grant to keep the controversial project moving forward.  It will be matched by $300,000 in local tax funding via the Counties Transit Improvement Board.

The federal dollars come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transit-Oriented Development grant program which “is about creating sustainable communities where people of all ages and incomes have transportation and housing choices, increasing location efficiency where people can walk, bike and take transit.”  The new federal pilot program has nearly $20 million appropriated to spend.

During the last legislative session, the bipartisan group of legislators requested $3 million in planning funds for the Gateway Corridor, but none was allocated.  Rep Ward was quoted in the Woodbury Bulletin in late April regarding the funding request, “What we do know is if we don’t get this money this session that we lose our federal match.”  They didn’t get the money, but they’re still moving forward.

With the new $1 million in federal tax dollars awarded this week, Lisa Weik, chair of the Gateway Corridor Commission told the Pioneer Press that, “The funds will help us support our existing communities, plan for growth, create economic development opportunities and provide mobility options for businesses and residents.”

Last summer the cost of the Gateway Corridor bus roadway was estimated to be $400 Million, but the most recent estimates in the Minnesota Senate have ballooned to $485 Million with 45% of the funding from the federal government,  45% from the counties,  and 10% from the state.  Total cost to taxpayers in Minnesota is estimated to be $267 Million, not including the ongoing operation costs paid for by Metro Transit.

As with the extension of the light rail Green line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie (SWLRT), the legislature has continually balked at funding the projects because of the unpopularity with a public who prefers roads over mass transit.  The Republican-controlled House has made it clear that they won’t be funding the project during next year’s legislative session, yet the Metropolitan Council continues to move ahead with planning having conducted a second round of municipal consent meetings over the past month due to changes on the line.

Alpha News has reported on the over $180 million in tax dollars that’s already been spent on the $1.8 billion SWLRT line, despite the legislature’s failure to approve the state portion of funding required to move the project forward.