The following article by Janet Moore was published in the September 1, 2016 issue of the Star Tribune.
Funding Now Appears Assured for Controversial Southwest LRT
Photo: Metropolitan CouncilThe Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) on Wednesday approved an additional $20.5 million for the beleaguered Southwest light-rail line, which was slated to run out of money by late September.
Over the past week, transit planners in the Twin Cities have cobbled together $145 million to salvage the Southwest light-rail line, providing a level of certainty to a project that has long been fraught with controversy.
“We will have a project,” declared Adam Duininck, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, which is spearheading the $1.9 billion light-rail line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
After the project failed to win financial support from a bitterly divided Legislature, the 14.5-mile line was fast running out of cash, facing staff layoffs, possible shutdown and a flagging reputation with the federal government, which is expected to pay half its cost.
On Wednesday, the Met Council threw the project a critical lifeline — approving a new funding plan that deploys an obscure financial tool called “certificates of participation” to raise $103.5 million. The Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), which consists largely of elected officials from metro-area counties, and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority each agreed this week to kick in an additional $20.5 million, as well.
Still, some uncertainty lingers — a lawsuit filed by Minneapolis residents seeking to block the project is pending in federal court.
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