Do the Right Thing
by Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio May 19, 2008
St. Paul, Minn. — Supporters of the Central Corridor light rail line breathed a sigh of relief this weekend when Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders ended their marathon talks with an a deal that includes state funding for construction.
Half of the money for the $909-million project is expected to come from the federal government, so $70 million from the state might not seem like a lot. But without it, the rest of the funding was in limbo.
But the money wasn't so solid last month, after Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed the $70 million from a bonding bill.
Pawlenty said concerns with the project that forced his veto last month have now been satisfied. The funding, for example, also comes with an additional requirement that the state pay no more than 10 percent of the total construction costs.
Now with the funding back in place, supporters of the Central Corridor can turn to finalizing the line's route.
The current plan takes tracks down Washington Avenue, while university officials recently suggested a northern route, through Dinkytown.
Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell said he doesn't think the Dinkytown route can be done to the federal government's standards, which would put federal funding at risk.
And Bell said the council will probably put the university issue to rest this week. Council members will either vote to stick with the current Washington Avenue route or go with Dinkytown. Either way, it should let the entire project move forward.
"I think the residents of the seven-county area can look forward to the certainty of an expanded transit system, with a line that will provide a strong degree of service," Bell said.
In a statement today, university President Robert Bruininks praised the new state funding for the Central Corridor and says the school is committed to finding a workable solution.