Saint Paul, MN (January 18, 2012)—Transit advocates celebrated Governor Mark Dayton’s inclusion of transit projects in his list of bonding priorities, including $25 million for the Southwest Light Rail Transit line and $10 million for transit facilities in Duluth, Mankato, and Saint Cloud. His support comes as demand for transit is reaching record levels.
Metro Transit reported Tuesday that 2011 ridership exceeded 80 million for only the second time in the last 30 years. Coupled with complimentary service provided by suburban transit providers and Metro Mobility, total ridership jumped to 94 million in 2011, according to the Metropolitan Council.
“The Governor has his priorities in sync with demand and future trends. We look to the legislature to follow suit. These transit bonding projects will make Minnesota’s transportation system more affordable and more effective,” said Barb Thoman, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities, a non-partisan organization with more than 10,000 members. “Southwest LRT is the next major link in the transit network and state bonding support enables the Twin Cities to compete with peer regions, such as Denver, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Seattle, for federal matching funding.”
Recently moved up to the “preliminary engineering” phase by the Federal Transit Administration, the SW LRT becomes one in 12 systems in the U.S. poised to receive a full-funding grant agreement. This will mean that $1 in state funds will leverage an additional $9 in funds from other levels of government, including county and federal. The largest portion of capital costs (50%) will be borne by the federal government.
The Southwest LRT will connect Eden Prairie to Minneapolis and, via linkages to the Central Corridor and Hiawatha lines, connect the region’s top job centers: downtown Minneapolis, downtown Saint Paul, the University of Minnesota, Bloomington and the Mall of America, and Opus/Golden Triangle.
“Demand for transit is rising, but only 15% of jobs and 25% of households are readily served by moderate frequency transit. For individuals to make ends meet and our region to thrive, we need to fund more access to transit, including bus, rail, and bus rapid transit.” said Thoman.
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