President Obama has included $45 million in his 2011 budget for the proposed Central Corridor light rail project. Supporters say that's a good sign for the route which will connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Nancy Homans, policy director for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, said the money means the federal government is behind the project.
"There's a $480 million bucket that they need to fill. Once they put in the first bit, it's a level of commitment that they'll keep filling the bucket, so that is good news for us," said Homans.
Jim Erkel of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy says the Federal Transit Administration does not typically include funding for this type of transit project so early in the process.
"It's really good news. It suggests that even though we have a number of hurdles to clear before we get to a full funding grant agreement, there is enough confidence with the FTA that this is a really good project, and that we will be able to clear those hurdles and move the project forward," said Erkel.
Those hurdles include lawsuits filed by the University of Minnesota and activists from the old Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul.
The federal government is expected to pay for half of the project. The Federal Transit Administration could sign off on a full funding grant agreement later this year.
In a statement released Monday, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar said the $45 million budgeted represents the kind of payment the project can expect to receive annually once the FTA gives final approval.