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Some DFL supporters of the Southwest line say Dayton decided against including it among about $1 billion in proposed public works projects because doing so would have jeopardized all of them.
“Republicans said they wouldn’t vote for the bonding bill if it had Southwest in it,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. “There are times when the Republicans have made voting for light-rail transit almost akin to abortion.”
Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson said the governor didn’t discuss his bonding bill proposals with GOP legislators. He said Dayton excluded Southwest from bonding because its high cost would have aced out other worthwhile projects and because the Met Council can use its own bonding strategy to fill the funding gap. Dayton also has expressed support for raising the metro sales tax for transit.
DFLers need Republican votes to pass a bonding bill. Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, the lead Republican on the House Transportation Finance Committee, said there probably weren’t enough votes to pass the bonding bill with Southwest in it.
But he said fighting among DFLers may have been another reason Southwest wasn’t included.
He referred to opposition in St. Louis Park to rerouting freight trains there to make room for the light-rail line in Minneapolis, and opposition in Minneapolis to plans for running the light rail through the Kenilworth recreational corridor. Some Kenilworth residents want the line built elsewhere or hidden near their homes in an expensive tunnel under a channel linking Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. The Met Council plan calls for less expensive tunnels on either side of the channel with the light-rail trains rising to cross a bridge over the water.
The city of Minneapolis asked Dayton to delay the project last fall so that its impact on the lakes and options for rerouting freight could be further studied. Earlier studies didn’t find acceptable freight reroutes or adverse impact on the lakes.
Some supporters optimistic
Met Council Member Jennifer Munt, who has defended the current plan, said release of the studies next week might allay the concerns of Minneapolis.
“If we can provide assurances to the city that the current alignment doesn’t harm the lakes and that there was no longer a freight route outside the Twin Cities, then we have to zero in on how we can make this work for them,” Munt said. “There’s hope for keeping this project on track.”
Emerging from a meeting with Dayton, Haigh and key legislators last week on Southwest, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said she hasn’t made up her mind on the plan. “I’m waiting to make sure we get the information that’s going to be coming our way,” she said.
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504