A board that serves as a key funder of mass transit in the Twin Cities voted Friday to postpone until March 8 a decision on whether to dissolve itself to give it time to work out the details.
By dissolving itself, the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) would likely ensure that major transit projects now on the drawing board will be built. That includes the $1.5 billion Bottineau Blue Line LRT connecting Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park, and the $150 million Orange Line bus-rapid transit linking Minneapolis to Burnsville on Interstate 35W.
A resolution to dissolve CTIB was expected to be passed Friday, but concerns surfaced among board members during a 2.5-hour meeting. Key among them was Dakota County’s contention that it was owed $29 million to depart from the group, while the resolution called for the suburban county to receive $13 million. Officials expressed optimism that a compromise could be struck.
A special meeting next Wednesday was set to adopt the resolution — however, the Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka and Washington county boards must also approve the move to dissolve.
If that occurs, which is expected before March 31, the break up will take place June 30.
Created in 2008, CTIB currently levies a quarter-cent sales tax in the five metro counties, as well as a $20 fee on new car sales for transit purposes. This revenue has been critical to funding nearly $1 billion for transit projects such as the Green Line, light-rail linking the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul that began service in 2014.
However, because many Republican legislators at the Capitol have blocked funding for transit projects from state coffers, planners were forced to find new ways to keep projects afloat.
The stalemate on the state level “is the reason to do this, so these projects won’t be held up,” said Peter McLaughlin, CTIB chair and a Hennepin County commissioner.
Other counties across the state are permitted to levy a half-cent sales tax for transportation purposes, including investment in transit, roads and bridges. By dissolving itself, the CTIB counties would be able to raise their transportation tax to a half cent — extra money that could be used for pending transportation projects, including roads and bridges.
Any tax increase would need approval from individual county boards. McLaughlin said Hennepin and Ramsey counties are likely to increase their transit tax levy — a move that will raise tax revenue by an additional $80 million a year.