ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County have approved several agreements that allow the costly Minneapolis to Eden Prairie light rail extension to proceed.
The Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County worked in close collaboration to reach an agreement with the Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company, a freight rail operator that will share a section of tracks with the planned Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT).
The current project budget is $2.003 billion and will be funded by the Federal Transit Administration, Hennepin County, Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, Counties Transit Improvement Board, the state of Minnesota and other local funding partners.
Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff defended the controversial and expensive project claiming that the light rail extensions are critical to the economic health and mobility of the area.
“This region expects almost a million more people between 2010 and 2040,” said Tchourumoff. “To accommodate such growth, we must build Southwest LRT.”
As the body responsible for planning transportation within the Metro area, the Met Council is expected to provide solutions for easing the traffic congestion. However, in their 2030 transportation plan, the Met Council admits that “congestion will not be eliminated or significantly reduced” in the Twin Cities area. Instead of focusing on measures that would increase the capacities of the roadways in the Metro area, the Met Council has directed their attention towards providing alternative modes of travel like extending existing light rail lines.
The Center of the American Experiment has recently focused on transportation policy, launching a campaign highlighting the high level of traffic congestion in the Twin Cities metro area. According to CAE President John Hinderaker, the solution for Twin Cities traffic congestion lies not in increasing public transportation but expanding on the “inadequate system of highways and roads” in order to provide adequate lanes for the amount of traffic.
The Southwest Light Rail Transit project is one of many Twin Cities development projects led by the Metropolitan Council. The Green Line Extension will serve Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie and will have 16 new stops along the route.
“This important project continues to move forward because of our partnership with Hennepin County and the commitment of so many local officials, project staff, and residents to see it become a reality,” Tchourumoff said.
The agreements made will now be considered by the Surface Transportation Board before beginning construction which is expected to begin this year.