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.”