The Southwest light-rail Corridor Management Committee met last week to hear an update about the proposed $1.9 billion transit project linking Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

Planners of the 14.5-mile line, which also would serve St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka, shored up $145 million in local funding this month after state lawmakers failed to fund 10 percent of the project. The Metropolitan Council can now apply to the Federal Transit Administration next year for a grant that would pay half the project’s total cost.

An overview of the project revealed that 153 parcels must be purchased to make way for the line. Twenty-nine new bridges (for trains, pedestrians, roads and freight rail) will be erected, and modifications made to seven existing bridges. Six pedestrian tunnels, two tunnels along Hwy. 62 and in the Kenilworth corridor, and 110 retaining walls will be built.

Members of the committee, including mayors of cities along the line, said they were relieved that the funding issue was resolved. Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said that the Met Council should avoid state lawmakers when funding transit in the future.

Heavy construction would begin in the second half of 2017, with service expected to begin in 2021.



Watershed district seeks highest levy hike in years

West metro taxpayers likely will see a 7 percent increase in taxes levied next year by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, which would be its biggest increase since 2006.

Officials with the district, which covers 181 square miles from Minnehaha Falls to Lake Minnetonka, announced the levy increase after the board of managers approved the proposed 2017 budget of $13.5 million with a $9.3 million levy.

Officials said the 7 percent increase is needed to continue water quality work along the creek, including the most degraded stretch at the Greenway in Hopkins and St. Louis Park.

If the levy gets final approval in December, the owner of a $300,000 home would pay $2.63 more a year in taxes to the watershed district.

The district’s levy didn’t increase from 2010 to 2013, but then went up by 2 percent in 2014, 4.9 percent in 2015 and 5 percent this year.

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Railroad authority sets ‘historic budget’ for 2017

The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority approved a “historic budget” for 2017 that encompasses major projects from Southwest to Bottineau light rail.

The railroad authority, which is made up of the Hennepin County Board, issued a proposed budget of $100.6 million and set the maximum property tax levy at $33 million.

“This is a historic budget,” said Howard Orenstein, senior assistant county attorney. “You are imprinting a new and long-lasting transit map on the future of Hennepin County.”

The authority voted 6-1 for the budget. The lone dissenter, Commissioner Jeff Johnson, noted that the rail levy was $7 million in 2009.

The county will hold a public truth-in-taxation hearing on the 2017 budget and tax levy at 6 p.m. Nov. 29. A final vote is scheduled for Dec. 13.



New directional signs unveiled for Nice Ride

Nice Ride Minnesota bike racks now have a cheeky set of directional signs aimed at encouraging cyclists using the bike-share enterprise to hop a bike to explore local landmarks.

The 24 sets of themed signs give the direction and Google-estimated time to bike to each destination. They were developed by consultant Persuasion Arts & Sciences to convey the ease of cycling rather than driving.

The new signs, 122 in all, are mounted on the poles that hold solar panels on some kiosks. They’re grouped by themes, such as gangster-affiliated places, movie locations, sound effects (Snap Fitness and Smack Shack) and even by personality attributes such as Surly Brewing and Grumpy’s Bar and Grill.

Nice Ride said the signs cost $9,000. Persuasion donated its creative services.