Former U.S. Rep. Martin Olav Sabo has joined vocal opponents of the Southwest Corridor light-rail — including a daughter — in urging Minneapolis officials to reject plans for the line.
He said the $1.68 billion price tag outweighs the benefits.
“There is very little improved mobility for the people of Minneapolis — I’d call it marginal at best,” Sabo said Thursday in addressing Southwest critics in the rotunda of Minneapolis City Hall. “Contact the Minneapolis mayor and City Council and tell them this is a bad route.”
Sabo’s criticism came as city officials are negotiating a possible compromise with the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the Southwest project and seeking approval from Minneapolis and four other cities along the future route.
The congressman, who represented Minneapolis from 1979 to 2007, questioned the environmental impact of light-rail tunnels on lakes in the Kenilworth corridor and said suburbs along the route scored better deals. He repeated a disputed claim that St. Louis Park reneged on a deal in the late 1990s to reroute freight trains from the corridor to the suburb to make room for the light rail.
Sabo was asked why he waited to speak out against Southwest and replied, “The more facts I learned, the more I was against it.”
He made his remarks to about 40 people in the rotunda and acknowledged that his daughter, Julie, a vocal opponent of the Southwest plan, has a stake in the light-rail route. “My daughter lives on the route,” Sabo said, adding that she was told when she bought her house that the nearby freight trains would be moved if light rail came. “My daughter actually believed that.”
He defended her and other Southwest opponents who live near recreational trails in the corridor where the light rail would be routed.
“Some people dismiss them as NIMBYs,” he said, using the acronym for Not In My Back Yard. He said the Hiawatha light rail was built “because of NIMBYs of a different era” who blocked a freeway that was originally planned for the area.