Southwest Light Rail Clings to Life

In spite of a rough legislative session, officials still hold out hope for the SWLRT.

southwest light rail, light rail
Light Rail stops for passengers near U.S Bank Stadium. (Preya Samsundar/Alpha News)

MINNEAPOLIS – In spite of the Minnesota legislature’s prohibition on state money going to the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project, officials involved in the project are still optimistic that funding will be secured from elsewhere.

While the legislature passed a bill to prohibit state funds from paying for operating costs for the SWLRT, Hennepin County now plans to pick up those costs, reports KSTP.

“(The) Southwest light rail project is on (the) best footing it’s been in quite some time,” Metropolitan Council Chairman Adam Duininck told KSTP.

For Hennepin County this is yet another cost of the SWLRT, as the county is expected to shoulder another $103.5 million of the project following the dissolution of the Counties Transit Improvement Board, reports the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. As a result, sales taxes in the county may go up from a quarter cent to a half-cent to fund transportation projects including the SWLRT.

However, the project is still $900 million short, with officials’ hopes hanging on the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress.

“I think transit is gonna be well funded through the Congress and through the President’s budget,” Duininck told KSTP. “Even though his own budget doesn’t support it the Congress does and so at the federal level I feel good about that and then i feel good about the progress we’ve made at the legislature this year to keep Southwest moving.”

Eighty-four Republicans in the Minnesota legislature sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asking that the Trump administration refuse to grant the necessary funding for the SWLRT. State Sen. Dave Osmek (R-Mound) and State Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) also introduced resolutions into their respective chambers asking the Federal Transit Administration to deny requests for funding for the SWLRT.

U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis is also strongly opposed to the SWLRT. He wrote to Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in May asking that the project not be funded, reports Northfield News.

“Our kids’ future is endangered by a ballooning $20 trillion national debt, and tackling wasteful spending is one of the main reasons why I came to Washington,” Lewis said in a press release.

Anders Koskinen