MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a large and festive gathering in the shadows of Target Field. The ballpark had just hosted a successful country music concert but the political figures on stage were celebrating the groundbreaking of the Interchange, a transit hub that will bring two, possibly three, different light rail lines together.
The Interchange would be where the potential Southwest Corridor Light Rail Line connecting Eden Prairie, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis would meet the rest of the rails. Officials from the Met Council have recently applied for state bonding money for preliminary engineering for the project. They'll find out if they get some of that money from the state later this summer.
"We're going to need the state's commitment at some point but we're going to keep pushing forward," Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said following the groundbreaking ceremony, which he hosted.
McLaughlin said the success of the Hiawatha Line proves that the public uses the mode of transport and that it spurs economic development. As far as the Southwest project, the federal government would fund half the project, while the county would fund 40 percent and the state would fund 10 percent. The total price tag for the line currently sits around $1.25 billion.
"The $25 million they were looking for this year is just a down payment. Next year, they've already told us they're looking for $95 million more. Where's that coming from?" Republican Representative Mike Beard of Shakopee wondered.
Beard says subsidizing light rail and the Northstar commuter line costs the state millions a year.
"The freeways and the highways, making that better, that strikes me as a better deal for the taxpayers than building all new lines that can only do one thing and that's run a train," he said.
"We're going to need better ways to get people around," Commissioner McLaughlin countered. "You're not going to be able to expand the freeways,"
McLaughlin did say there is still a good amount of work to be done to secure the 10 percent needed from the state for the project.
"We're going to have to change some people's minds and we're going to have to win some elections," he concluded.
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