It was deeply disappointing that the bonding bill did not include funds for the Southwest Light Rail line. It’s not because I have some personal stake in it. I have enough trouble keeping up with the set backs happening in my own area of Apple Valley on transit.
But it is a continuation of a long and deeply troubling semi-conspiracy to kill the light rail network for this Metro area. Even though the sparse rail lines in place are popular and exceed expectations. And even though gas prices continue to escalate and people beg for alternatives. And even though the public continues to want movement in this area. Despite all that, the progress on this rail network moves at a slower than snail’s pace.
It was also troubling to watch the legislature, in the space of a few high impact weeks, give a billionaire’s sports facility the kind of attention and action that proponents of light rail have craved for decades.
Light rail is never going to achieve the impact it can if we don’t move all of its potential projects along. We have construction people who want to work. We have interest rates at record lows. We have a citizenry who would welcome a cheaper alterantive to gas guzzling commutes. All of these things could make a full throttle, full metro ring, light rail network the public works project of our time… and with benefits and development potential beyond measure.
Other major metro areas have made a rail system a priority and their commuter base has responded. Metro areas with complete transit networks prosper. Their businesses prosper. Their citizens will never go back.
What is also troubling about this is this….
Representatives of TwinWest chamber, along with the Minneapolis, St. Paul area and Eden Prairie chambers of commerce, have met with the media and promoted the (Southwest Rail) infrastructure project online.
In 2000, the corridor through which it would run contained 210,000 jobs. With a light rail line, business leaders say they anticipate a growth of 60,000 more jobs in the corridor by 2030.
UnitedHealthcare, for example, is counting on the line to support the addition of thousands of jobs at its suburban headquarters, Schroeer said. SuperValu has also indicated the line could help the company expand its Eden Prairie headquarters. The line could also promote more jobs at Comcast’s call center in Minnetonka.
Good for business. Good for jobs. Good for commuters. Good for development.
So what’s holding this up?
Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) and Senate Majority Leader David Senjem (R-Rochester) did not return calls but have expressed hesitation to endorse the line in the past. Zellers has said he is “not a rail guy” and prefers bus rapid transit……..Senjem has called light rail lines “a financial liability.”
Republicans in the legislature continue to “fight the future”. They can’t commit to investments that lead to future growth. They are more interested in one time budget fixes that can bring about short term political benefit.
It is a fools game……and we all lose.
Vote for new leadership for Minnesota’s future. We cannot wait anymore.
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