The City Council on Tuesday approved a plan that would redirect about $60 million in property taxes to a streetcar running through the heart of the city.
The first phase of the streetcar line, a 3.2-mile stretch from the K-Mart on Lake Street to Kramarczuk's on Hennepin Avenue, is expected to cost upwards of $200 million.
The city would fund its portion of the cost by tapping taxes generated by several major apartment projects already underway in and around downtown.
Where the rest of the money comes from remains to be seen. The city says it needs regional or federal dollars to make up the gap.
"I'll go to Mars if it gets us more money for this thing," said Mayor R.T. Rybak, who has been one of the loudest champions of streetcars at City Hall. "But the bottom line is we have to knock down every door possible to finish the job here."
Though the funding plan has been controversial among some mayoral candidates and a former budget chair, it passed unanimously at the council. Critics have criticized tapping existing developments (left) to fund the project, since it would have occured with or without the streetcar.
One of the skeptics during the committee process, Council Member Meg Tuthill, joined her colleagues in supporting the measure Tuesday. "I'm getting on the love train," she said.
Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who is not running for re-election, pushed back on the assertion that this was a "subsidy" for streetcars. "If the tax money going into building streetcars is subsidy, then so is all the money we spend every year building streets in this city," Colvin Roy said.
Rybak said he was "looking at 13 visionaries who are going to go down as the people who moved us forward in one of the most innovative transportation improvements this city has ever had."
The future properties that would provide the funds for the streetcar include the 36-story Magellan Tower, 26-story Nic on Fifth, 30-story 4Marq, 222 Hennepin and a project called Red20 in Northeast.
Photo: A streetcar line in Portland, Ore. (Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)