Business community comes out in support of Southwest LRT

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Met Council
Southwest LRT would feature 17 stations along a 15-mile track from Eden Prairie to Target Field.
The first Central Corridor train won't run for two more years, but Gov. Mark Dayton already has Southwest LRT on his mind.

Yesterday, in his bonding proposal, the Governor included $25 million for what would be the third LRT line in the metro.

While Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, chair of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, has vowed to stop Southwest LRT "dead in its tracks," the proposed line appears to have strong support from the business community.

Shortly after Dayton released his bonding proposal, Minnesota's three largest Chambers of Commerce -- the Minneapolis Regional, the St. Paul Area, and TwinWest -- jointly published a press release voicing their support for including Southwest LRT in the bonding bill.

"As the economy edges toward improvement, major Twin Cities employers will be looking to expand -- either in our area or elsewhere -- in the coming years," the statement says, adding that 40 percent of downtown Minneapolis employees rely on transit to get to work. "We want to keep businesses growing here and that means making critical transit investments now."

Southwest LRT would run 15 miles through Eden Prarie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, and Minneapolis. It would connect with the Hiawatha and Central Corridor lines at an emerging transit hub next to Target Field.

The $25 million Dayton wants to spend on the project would likely to toward preliminary engineering work. To begin construction, the state at some point will need to kick in another $95 million toward the total project cost of $1.25 billion.

MinnPost reports that Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, were "politely noncommittal" when asked late last week about whether they support Southwest LRT, with Zellers saying it might be "hard to get it included" in this year's bonding bill.

Since they often side with Republicans, the business community's strong support for Southwest LRT might sway folks like Senjem and Zellers to give the project a second look. If they can be persuaded, the Twin Cities will be on track toward having a real rail system before the decade is through.

Thanks, Jesse Ventura.

Previous coverage of Dayton's bonding proposal:
-- New Saints ballpark highlights Governor's bonding proposal

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