Gov. Mark Dayton will lead a public meeting on Thursday to talk about the future of the proposed Southwest Light Rail line in Hennepin County, as state political gridlock imperils the timeline for a nearly $1.9 billion transit project.
Metropolitan Council Chairman Adam Duininck, the Dayton appointee leading the light rail effort, said on Wednesday that planners "need a decision by August 31."
"Without local funding commitments by then, we will be forced to begin shutting down the office and project permanently," Duininck said in a statement. That would include layoff notices to about 45 employees, he said. Duininck also said the project runs out of operating cash on September 30, and contended that would lead to further delays to the tune of $1 million a week.
The state needs to provide $135 million in order to leverage the federal funds pledged to keep the project going. But the request got snared up in legislative politics in St. Paul, where the money has emerged as a key sticking point in efforts by Dayton, GOP Speaker Kurt Daudt and DFL Senate Leader Tom Bakk to agree on a much larger package of tax cuts, transportation and infrastructure spending.
Dayton and the legislative leaders abandoned those talks last week as the November election approaches, with all 134 legislative seats on the ballot.
The public meeting is set for 2 p.m. at the Skjestad Room at the Department of Revenue in St. Paul. The administration invited the four legislative leaders, members of the Counties Transit Improvement Board, and business leaders.
Daudt's spokeswoman could not immediately confirm if he would attend the meeting. Daudt has grown increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Southwest Light Rail project in recent weeks. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said he would not be attending.