Minnesota Republicans Seek to Shut Southwest Light Rail Down

Image Credit: Preya Samsundar/Alpha News MN

“The gift that keeps on taxing.” – Sen. Osmek

ST. PAUL, Minn — In a bicameral effort, Republicans in St. Paul are looking to redirect Federal Government money from the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project to fixing Minnesota roads and bridges. The proposed SWLRT rail line will run from Eden Prairie to Minneapolis.

In a press conference Monday afternoon, Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) and Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) spoke of a joint measure between the House and Senate to defund SWLRT and use the funding for other transportation projects in the State.

Osmek and Runbeck introduced resolutions into their respective legislative bodies asking the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) to, “deny the $900M plus federal matching funds for the construction of SWLRT in the metro and block grant the funds to the State Legislature to fund transportation priorities that Minnesotans actually want,” according to Osmek.

Image Credit: Biersdorf & Associates
Image Credit: Biersdorf & Associates

Osmek says SWLRT is being pushed by the Met Council who he describes as an “unelected, unaccountable, group of metro liberals.”

Runbeck states the project is failing Minnesotans with its “out of this world” pricetag, but the annual costs of maintaining SWLRT is also astronomical. “The fact is, 66%, two-thirds of the cost is paid for by Statewide taxpayers.”

In the near future, Osmek will be speaking with the new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao to discuss the funding of SWLRT. “Five cities can make a decision, but when you are talking about a $2B project that taxpayers of Minnesota, not taxpayers of Eden Prairie… If those five cities want to pony up all of the money on operating costs which is $20M a year, feel free to have them do that. They’re playing monopoly money with the legislature’s money,” Osmek told members of the press.

Republicans could face resistance from the Federal Government. Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking federal funds from government entities carrying the designation of Sanctuary City.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Trump’s order puts seven local government entities at risk for federal aid. According to the Center of Immigration Studies (CIS)), Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Austin, Maplewood, and Worthington have declared themselves sanctuary entities.

The $929M in federal funding initially given by the Obama administration could now be in jeopardy as a result of the new executive order.

However, Osmek has hope to receive the federal funding intended for SWLRT and use it for other projects. He also thinks he can gain support from his colleagues. “There’s a new day in Washington D.C. There has already been discussion at the Federal level. I’ve seen some commentary on it that the new FTA wants to go to block grants, rather than creating extortion tactics. This is all part of the local control the Trump administration has been touting from the time that they got there” says Osmek.

Overall, Osmek believes Republicans and Democrats will support the resolutions in the House and Senate. He notes Democrats did not pass SWLRT when they had the majority and believe they will have enough votes to get it passed. Osmek states that out-of-state Democrats realize that SWLRT “is a boondoggle of biblical proportions.” Republicans plan to work with Congressman Jason Lewis (R) who sits on the Transportation Committee in Washington D.C.  

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.