(The following editorial was submitted by the House DFL caucus.)
With as little as two weeks remaining in session and the Legislature wrapping up a 10-day break, members of the House DFL Caucus, along with state and local officials, and area business leaders, called today for a bipartisan bonding bill that includes funding for the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project at a press conference at Supervalu corporate headquarters in Eden Prairie.
“Leaders of both parties said before session that jobs were the priority and the Southwest Light Rail project is an opportunity to ensure our actions match our words,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL – Minneapolis). “This is the type of project that will benefit the businesses and people in this region for generations to come. We should seize the opportunity to move forward.”
The Southwest Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT) line would run 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, passing through the southwestern suburban cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, and Minnetonka. The line would connection two of the region’s largest job centers: downtown Minneapolis (140,000 jobs) and the Opus/Golden Triangle employment area (30,000 jobs).
"The southwest metro is growing quickly, and expanded light rail service is a vital part of supporting the thousands of new jobs that will come to our area in the next twenty years," said State Rep. Steve Simon (DFL – St. Louis Park). "We need to work across party lines to build the effective transportation system that our communities and businesses need for long-term economic success."
Businesses care about transit development. According to Greater MSP, the regional economic development organization, the single most frequent concern of businesses thinking of moving to the Minneapolis-St. Paul region is transit. Currently, competitor regions all have larger rail systems and are building faster than the Twin Cities.
“This light-rail project is a win-win,” said Rep. John Benson (DFL – Minnetonka). “It’s added convenience for residents and commuters, and will help draw additional jobs and new businesses to our region. Delays will cost us more down the road, adding another $40 million to the budget next year due to inflation. Now is the perfect time to get moving on this project.”
The Southwest Corridor LRT line bonding request is for $25 million and is the highest priority ranking of the Metropolitan Council’s four project requests. While Governor Dayton’s bonding proposal included that $25 million and the House DFL proposal included $24 million, the House and Senate bonding bills did not contain any funding for the project.
The Southwest Corridor LRT project is one of few that the federal government has already approved. Any state money will leverage funds at a ratio of 9 to 1. If the state does not move forward the federal investment will be left on the table.
“Investments like the Southwest Corridor not only offers us an opportunity to build and improve public land and buildings over the short-term, it offers us an opportunity to shape the future of our state for the next several decades,” said Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL – St. Paul), DFL Lead on the House Capital Investment Committee. “We should not miss this golden opportunity to positively shape our state for years to come.”
The Southwest Corridor LRT has broad bipartisan support. The cities of Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Edina, Minnetonka, Hopkins, and St. Louis Park have all passed resolutions in support of the line, and it has support from local area Chambers of Commerce, including TwinWest, Eden Prairie, Edina, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. Local businesses, including SuperValu, Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, Opportunity Partners, UnitedHealth Group and Opus also support the line.
“The legislature is nearly out of time,” added Rep. Thissen. “With the clock ticking, we need to focus on the right priorities and this is something positive we should get done for the people of Minnesota.”