Bill to curb Met Council moves forward

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2011 - 8:11 PM

Backers deem measure unlikely to pass this session but say it will be fodder for broader debate next year.

A plan to strip the Metropolitan Council of authority over long-range transportation planning and turn it over to a new board dominated by elected officials cleared a legislative hurdle Wednesday.

The Senate local government and elections committee passed the bill and sent it to the Senate transportation committee.

Its sponsor told the panel before the vote that she expects the measure to foster a wider debate over transportation planning that will continue next year.

"There needs to be some changes made," said Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan. "We think this is an important issue, an issue that needs to have continued discussion."

Her bill and a stalled companion in the House reflect frustration by some southern suburbs with the authority of the Metropolitan Council over transportation planning in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area. The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee.

Some growing suburbs want money for highway expansion projects and balk at the Met Council's emphasis on maintenance and transit.

The 17-member council, appointed by the governor, defends its approach as a necessary strategy when there is a shortfall in transportation funds. The state Department of Transportation says only a fraction of $40 billion needed for transportation in the Twin Cities would be available over the next two decades.

Beard and Robling say the initiatives are less likely to pass in the closing days of the 2011 session than to provide a framework for overhauling the Met Council next year. Robling also suggested Wednesday that a dormant legislative commission on metropolitan government be revived.

The measures would replace a 33-person transportation advisory board to the Met Council with a 24-person panel that would assume the council's authority over developing long-range plans in the Twin Cities. Seventeen of the 24 would be elected officials from cities and counties.

The impetus for the proposal stems from a report in January by Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles critical of metropolitan transportation planning.

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504

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