Dayton rebuts GOP light rail letter to feds

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is urging President Trump’s transportation chief to support the Southwest Corridor light rail project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie when the state soon applies for federal funding.

Dayton sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in which he stressed the project’s broad support among business and community leaders. He also countered a recent letter from letter sent by Republican state lawmakers that criticized SWLRT.

In that March 17 letter, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and 83 other GOP legislators asked Chao to deny a full-funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration that would provide nearly $900 million to build the line. They described Southwest light rail as a “grossly wasteful project” that would be “counter-productive” to state interests.

Dayton acknowledged in his letter that the project does not have unanimous support. But he noted its “strong support” from several key business organizations, as well as the cities and counties along the route. He also said he will protect the longstanding financial commitments that have already been made to the project.

“This project is crucial to the economic future of Minnesota’s largest metropolitan area and the entire state,” Dayton wrote.

Dayton said the state was making final preparations to apply for the full-funding agreement. He expressed confidence that Southwest light rail will meet the agency’s expectations and ultimately exceed ridership and economic development projections.

Dayton also pointed out to Chao that most of the Republicans who sent the earlier letter do not represent the metropolitan area.

“Notably, the three Republican legislators who represent districts along the proposed route did not sign that letter to you,” he wrote.

The planned route for the Southwest light rail line, as of January 2017. Courtesy of Metropolitan Council
  • Fred

    If the cities and counties along the route support it let them finance it. Face it, the project isn’t crucial to the economic future of the rest of the state, contrary to what the Gov. states. I’m not even sure what crucial means in this context. Does it mean we will all die if it isn’t built?

  • Steve

    Fred maybe we should let greater Minnesota finance their roads? Twin Cities is growing, rural MN is dwindling, can’t build more roads so…we need other options.

    • Billy

      BRT is a more economical and feasible option than an antiquated train. LRT is too expensive and a waste of money for the twin cities because we do not have the population density of a New York or Chicago.
      Roads can be built a lot cheaper per mile than a train can and the roads get used by everyone.

    • Fred

      OK but then let’s have a toll for metro residents who use roads in greater Minnesota.