No money this session for Southwest Corridor LRT

The 2012 legislative session ended with no bond funding for the proposed Southwest Corridor Light Rail project. Business leaders, Met Council and transit advocates have been pushing lawmakers to allocate $25 million to the project, which has federal permission to enter preliminary engineering.

Peter McLaughlin, chair of the Counties Transit Improvement Board, said the failure to fund Southwest is shortsighted. He called the legislature’s move “a setback” but said it won’t stop the project’s progress.

“We’ll figure out a way,” he said. “I’m not sure what that path is yet but we are working on it.”

McLaughlin said SWLRT will begin preliminary engineering as proponents continue to lobby for funding. He added it’s a key project for building out the Twin Cities’ transit infrastructure.

TwinWest Chamber President Bruce Nustad said SWLRT could help the region’s economy :

“This project is critical to adding 60,000 new long-term, private sector jobs to the Twin Cities. In addition to supporting current and new jobs, the project will improve our region’s quality of life, reduce traffic congestion, and efficiently get Minnesotans to work and school.

The bonding bill allocated $47.5 million to the Department of Employment and Economic Development for grants to cities, counties, and other local governments for projects to spur job growth. We will make the business case for this project to officials at DEED. We hope to secure the support needed to keep this important jobs and economic development project moving.”

And Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh said this:

“The urgent need for this line requires that we begin exploring other temporary funding alternatives to keep the project on track until the 2013 legislature has the opportunity to fund the state’s share of the project. In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking with our local funding partners and the Dayton Administration about how to keep Southwest Light Rail progressing and how to ensure the project remains competitive for federal dollars.”