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Light rail project too costly: Pawlenty

  • Article by: PATRICIA LOPEZ
  • Star Tribune
  • January 23, 2008 - 3:48 PM

With public works funding increasingly tight, Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued a stern warning today that escalating costs and lack of agreement may jeopardize the Central Corridor Light Rail transit line between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Costs for the project, now projected at $1.25 billion, must come down by a third, Pawlenty said in a letter today to leaders on the project. "To qualify for federal funding  -- and to garner my support," Pawlenty said in the letter, the project must meet federal cost-effectiveness guidelines.

"Competition for state bonding dollars is intense," Pawlenty wrote. Although Pawlenty has backed the rail project in the past, he has become dismayed in recent months at the infighting and the bid-'em-up dynamic that has emerged.

The governor signaled earlier this month, when he released his bonding recommendations, that the squabbling had cooled him on the project. The $70 million earmarked in his recommendations, he said, was a placeholder, offered as an inducement to those involved to shape up.

On Wednesday, Pawlenty said that in addition to cost containment, local governments must commit to their share of capital and operating funds. "These elements are a prerequisite to my support and (to) the project moving forward," he wrote.

The letter was sent to the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Hennepin and Ramsey county commissioners, and the president of the University of Minnesota.

The Metropolitan Council will vote on the project's cost and scope at a Feb. 27 meeting.

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288

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