A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Legislature must prioritize funding for Southwest LRT

While the United States has one of the most extensive freight rail system in the world we have fallen way behind in passenger rail like high speed rail connecting distant geographic locations and light rail transit (LRT) for metro area commuting. Fortunately, there is an increasing interest and demand in expanding rail infrastructure in the U.S.

In Minnesota, we are in the midst of building a 21st century transit infrastructure including the construction of the Central Corridor line. The next project is the Southwest Light Rail Line which will connect downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie. The project, estimated to cost $1.25 billion, is expected to be largely funded by the federal government and local sources including the quarter cent regional sales tax for transitways, but will require the state to contribute $125 million. $5 million has already been committed by the state, but in order for the project to move forward this year the state must include $25 million in the bonding bill.

According to a poll from the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, and the Twin West Chamber of Commerce, 61% of Minnesota voters support dedicating $25 million in state funds to the Southwest Light Rail Line. Businesses also support the rail project. The aforementioned chambers of commerce all support state funding for the project because LRT often results in economic development. Todd Klingel of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce predicts that 3,500 jobs will be created from construction alone, but anticipates 60,000 jobs along the Southwest corridor.

As young people, our vision for the future of our society often includes extensive public transit systems as an economical and sustainable way to move people. The Southwest Light Rail Line is a common sense next step in building this kind of transit infrastructure in Minnesota’s metro area. It’s critical that the state legislature include $25 million in the bonding bill to continue moving this project forward.

Please take a minute to sign this petition to urge our state lawmakers to make the Southwest Light Rail Line a priority in the bonding bill.

Written by Jamison Tessneer

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