Minneapolis Council approves $1.6B light rail

By  |  Friday, August 29, 2014 6:49 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minneapolis City Council voted to approve municipal consent of a $1.6 billion light rail project that would connect the city to the southwest suburbs.

The council voted 10-3 Friday in the last local approval needed for the Southwest Metro Transit light rail, the Star Tribune reported.

Council members Barb Johnson, Cam Gordon and Lisa Goodman voted against project, expressing concern about the route, the potential environmental impact and the lack of urban bus amenities.

“This route fails to serve densely populated areas of Minneapolis and ignores areas of transit-dependence in favor of suburban commuters,” Goodman said.

Council member Andrew Johnson, who supported the project, said he thinks the environmental impact would be minimal.

“If I believed that there was a serious threat to the water, the ground water or the chain of lakes, I would emphatically be voting no today,” he said.

And Jacob Frey said although the route is flawed, it would bring many benefits to the city.

“It reinforces Minneapolis and specifically the downtown where I represent as the center of our region,” the council member said. “Even if this is only a high-speed rail from the suburbs to the downtown, that piece does help our downtown.”

Other council members suggested the city invest in its local bus system. Elizabeth Glidden compared the light rail proposal to the recent unveiling of a proposed $8.7 million bridge next to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

“I kind of question the prioritization of that announcement when we have also just had released a report that talks about the need to better invest in the core of the bus service and the amenities and the shelters and security around those,” Glidden said.

The Southwest light rail project, half of which is expected to be funded by the federal government, would run from Eden Prairie to downtown Minneapolis and is expected to open in 2019.

“We’re also operating in a reality that this is a regional project,” Glidden said. “We didn’t choose this route, but we are part of a region.”

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