The way Gary Kriesel sees it, the Legislature had better get behind east-metro transit, and fast, because he's doubting the state's sincerity in backing the Metro Gold Line.
"It's Interstate 94, not County Road 94," the longtime Washington County commissioner said of the bus rapid transit route being planned for construction in 2018.
Kriesel repeatedly has expressed his skepticism of state support for transit over the years, and at a recent County Board meeting, he erupted in anger at the Legislature's failure to appropriate $3 million to help fund planning for the Gold Line from downtown St. Paul to eastern Woodbury.
"This is supposed to be a partnership between the state, the feds and local governments," he said. "All of a sudden, they don't have an appetite for transit. Why didn't they tell us that from the get-go? I have a total lack of trust with the state."
Kriesel's comments came after county administrator Molly O'Rourke told the five commissioners that some of Washington County's legislative priorities went unfunded, including the Gold Line request. In another loss, the county would receive $400,000 less in state program aid in 2016 because legislators didn't pass a tax bill.
The Gold Line, formerly the Gateway Corridor, would serve six cities and two counties on a bus rapid transit route from Union Depot in downtown St. Paul to the east side of Woodbury. Washington County's population is growing, as well; O'Rourke told commissioners it had increased 2.2 percent in the past year, to more than 248,000.
Businesses want to build in proximity to transit lines because more of their employees are millennials who prefer public transportation, said Commissioner Lisa Weik. Lack of transit near the former State Farm headquarters in Woodbury has deterred companies from moving there, she said.
The Legislature's inaction on the $3 million request doesn't immediately hurt the Gold Line project, Kriesel and Weik said, because they possibly can turn to the Metropolitan Council for the money. It would pay for environmental analysis, design and engineering, in addition to other funding sources.