The following item by Bob Carney, Jr. was posted on the Issues List on July 7, 2015
You Are Invited to a Met Council Southwest Light Rail Protest, 7/8, 4 PM, Met Council
The Met Council has an agenda item for their 4 PM meeting Wednesday 7/8, to approve a revised plan for Southwest Light Rail.
The plan was presented to their Committee of the Whole last week (a link to my video of the presentation is below, I don’t know of any other source for this on the internet).
Some things about the new plan are unclear – in particular, how the value of land being contributed by Hennepin County is being treated. The stated amount for the new budget is $1.744 billion, or $91 million MORE than the earlier budget they were trying to cut back to. They are trying to get commitments from local governments to close some of the gap.
So… one week after rolling out the new plan… and without any public hearing… a final vote on this is being proposed.
Last week, Captain Jack and I protested the plan to have this vote without a public hearing. We’re planning to be back this Wednesday to again protest the idea of taking such a final vote without a public hearing – and you are invited to join us in this protest.
One other issue to be aware of – there has been some reporting on the fact that an “alternative financing” plan is being considered – the Met Council would sell “Certificates of Participation” – which would entitle purchasers (aka investors) of the Certificates to receive their principal plus interest from future tax revenues. It seems clear this scheme has been prompted by the Met Council’s realization that the State won’t be appropriating any more money for Southwest Light Rail. According to the current funding plan, this leaves a gap of approximately $150 million in the budget – and that’s just the local shortfall. If no other source is found for this $150 million, the project would also lose $150 million in federal matching dollars, for a total shortfall of $300 million.
At the special session I asked House Speaker Kurt Daubt if any more money would be provided for Southwest Light Rail next year – he said no.. I asked if that was on or off the record, and he said he didn’t care… so, therefore I conclude it is on the record.
When the budget “blew up” to about $2 billion in late April, Met Council Chair Adam Duininck said all options were on the table, including the “no build” option. However, within 10 days of that time, it was abundantly clear from tape recorded discussion at a Committee of the Whole meeting that the only option being considered was to push ahead with the current plan, with whatever slashing cuts were necessary.
I respectfully submit to everyone that the current plan is a terrible plan. I could support a light rail plan that stopped in Hopkins, and went (in a tunnel) through the Greenway to I-35W, with a transit hub at the Greenway and I-35W linking the light rail with bus rapid transit, and with the Nicollet and Lake Street buses – then down to the Convention center, elevated in the I-35W corridor, and over to Royalston, linking with the North Minneapolis bus grid. An extension along the rest of the Greenway could link with the Blue Line at Hiawatha. This would make sense from the point of view of Transit – it would go where people are, and where people want to go. The current plan has never been about transit – it’s always been about tweaking numbers to try to get federal dollars.
Let’s take this crazy plan back to the drawing board – and focus on plans that are first and foremost designed to provide the best possible transit solutions.
In conclusion: 4 PM Wednesday, Met Council Headquarters, 390 North Robert Street, St Paul. I hope to see you there. It’s late on the agenda, not certain when it will come up.
Their phone is: 651-602-1000
Bob Carney Jr.
East Harriet Farmstead
Stadium Village (AKA Minneapolis)
“Candidate-Journalist”, “writer-wing republican”, registered Lobbyist for We the People (informal association)