Never underestimate the power of neighbors.
In the early 1990’s, Twin Cities transportation planners looked longingly at abandoned or little used railroad rights of way for use as something more than bike paths. They spied a collection of tracks running from Northfield to downtown Minneapolis and named it the Dan Patch corridor in memory of the world famous Minnesota harness race horse of the early 1900’s.
The north south corridor, the planners thought, would make a dandy route for a commuter rail line through fast growing southern suburbs. The planners were sidetracked by neighbors fearing declining property values from commuter rail running literally through their backyards. They lobbied lawmakers to successfully pass in 2002 an amendment prohibiting any study or spending for Dan Patch Corridor commuter rail. The law still stands after several repeal attempts.
Again this session there’ll be another repeal effort. Is it moot? There’s no dough for commuter rail anywhere, at the federal, state or local level. In fact, there’s precious little money for any kind of transit. Central Corridor light rail might squeak across the finish line with a full funding grant agreement from the federal government expected in March. But no one is holding their breath for funding Southwest corridor or other projects.
More alarming, there’s concern about whether there’s enough money to pay the annual operating bills for what we already have – the bus system, Hiawatha light rail and Northstar commuter rail. On the road and bridge side of the ledger, money has been found, about $172 million, over the next two years for the rebuild of the 169/494 interchange to eliminate those three pesky stoplights not all that far from the Dan Patch corridor.