Met Council seeks $14 million in LRT funds

  • Article by: ASHA ANCHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • July 3, 2012 - 6:13 AM

The Metropolitan Council wants a piece of the pie.

The agency submitted an application Monday for a $14 million Southwest Light Rail Transit project, grabbing at a chunk of the $47.5 million pot of money given to the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to dole out as it sees fit.

The department's new Capital Projects Grant Program will award the money to projects that show they will support the community, create jobs and attract out-of-state dollars. The money was set aside by the Legislature as part of the $496 million bonding bill for capital improvement projects. Communities that lost out in the competition for dedicated bonding money are expected to compete for this smaller pool of funds.

In the application, the Met Council argued that a Southwest light-rail line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie will boost economic activity and relieve congestion in the cities along the line.

The proposed line would serve the 210,000 jobs in the area, as well as another 60,000 jobs expected to be added along the Southwest corridor by 2030.

"The project will create, retain, improve and attract jobs, and it will stimulate private economic development that in turn will increase the local tax base," Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh wrote in the application.

It also would create 150 engineering-related jobs and 3,500 construction jobs to build the project, and 175 permanent operator and maintenance jobs.

In addition to jobs, the project is expected to attract "transit-oriented developments," said Meredith Salsbery, the council's director of communications, noting that new transit lines are often followed by hospitals, schools and other businesses.

Salsbery said there is no way of knowing how likely it is that the Southwest project would get the money, but she thinks it is a good candidate.

"We are quite confident that the project powerfully meets the requirements that DEED set out in their application and will compete well against other projects," she said.

So far, DEED has received 35 applications. The deadline for the grant was extended to 4:30 p.m. July 9.

Asha Anchan • 612-673-4154

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