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Dayton Approves $2 Million for SW Light Rail

The project was scored poorly by the Department of Employment and Economic Development but still received some funding Thursday.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday approved $2 million in grant funding for Southwest Light Rail, just days after the project received a .

Dayton approved a total of $47.5 million in grants, with the largest chunk—$25 million—going to a new St. Paul Saints ballpark, the Star Tribune reports.

On Tuesday, local leaders criticized the state Department of Employment and Economic Development for giving SW LRT the lowest score among the 37 projects that applied for grant funding.

"Someone at DEED should be fired if they think a Saints Ballpark creates more jobs or has a bigger regional impact than a new LRT line," Rep. Ryan Winkler wrote on Twitter.

However, the governor had final say over the grants, and though the project received $12 million less than requested, local business leaders welcomed the news.

“We’re pleased that Southwest Light Rail received funding as part of the state’s new economic development grant program and we thank Governor Dayton for his leadership," Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce President Todd Klingel said in an emailed statement.

Rep. Steve Simon said in a release that the grant should allow the legislature to leverage more federal dollars for the project.

"This is a smart investment in the future of the west metro and is an opportunity we should not pass up," Simon said. "This funding is a signal to the legislature that it’s time to make this project—and transit in general—a much higher priority."

Of course, $2 million is just a drop in the bucket, as the line is anticipated to cost between $865 million and $1.4 billion to build. Last year, LRT proponents failed to secure $25 million for the project via the state's bonding bill, but local leaders say they will try again next session.

“It’s a real business issue. It’s not, I think, a political spectrum issue. It’s a party issue,” Sen. Ron Latz told Patch. “The foundation is there. We just have to get past the partisan politics to make it happen.”

Matt Flory September 13, 2012 at 05:33 PM
The SW LRT could bring 60,000 new jobs to the west metro by 2030. Support for the planning phase is critical. I'm glad that the Governor agreed.
Butch Johnson September 13, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I would not use the term "SCORED POORLY" as the heading explaining the low score that Southwest LRT received. It's my understanding from the editorial in the Star Tribune that there were 90 applications for the building authorizations and 37 made the final analysis. The reason that the Southwest LRT scored low was that is not "shovel ready". I don't know what all the criteria was for the grant proposals but I would think matching dollars would be an excellent criteria. Investing in this project may keep its high priority with the federal government which would pay half of the eventual $1.25 billion cost.
Rex Mckee September 13, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Yes... Well done...
Norman Teigen September 13, 2012 at 09:44 PM
One can reasonably expect that the political goodies will be distributed so that all interests inevitably receive some satisfaction. I agree with Representative Winkller's comment although I applaud Senator Latz and Representative Simon's for their more restrained comments. I am pleased that the light rail project was not shut out.
Jay September 14, 2012 at 04:16 AM
At this rate we may be riding the SW line by 2050?? Still, something is better than nothing. Thank you Rep Steve Simon, Rep Ryan Winkler and Sen Ron Latz for continuing to advocate for this project that will transform transportation in the Southwest Metro and be a boon for our businesses!
Mira September 14, 2012 at 04:34 AM
One of the downsides of the light rail is the associated gentrification. Apartments that are currently affordable for low income families, allowing them to give their children a fine education, thereby positioning themselves to avoid the cycle of poverty, may be out of reach. As you think about the jobs and how higher commercial and residential rents will give the city a greater tax base, give those with limited income a thought too

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