Central Corridor gets funding from metro transit group

The Central Corridor light rail project won a large grant Wednesday from a local funding partner. The Counties Transit Improvement Board, or CTIB, approved more than $106 million for the Central Corridor line.

It's the third of four grants the board is making to pay for the 11-mile project from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis. The CTIB has pledged to pay 30 percent of the light rail construction costs of $957 million.

The money comes from a quarter-penny sales tax and a $20 vehicle sales tax collected in five counties -- Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Dakota and Anoka.

The money comes as Central Corridor awaits word on a guarantee of federal funding. Planners are counting on the federal government to pay half of the Central Corridor construction costs. There's some concern that a Republican proposal to ban congressional earmarks may jeopardize that funding, but planners remain confident the money will still come through.

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CTIB approved a total of nearly $149 million in grants for a range of Twin Cities transit projects at its Wednesday meeting, including the following:

*Slightly more than $12 million to advance plans for the proposed Southwest light rail project.

*Nearly $13 million for the Cedar Avenue bus rapid transit project to build bus shoulder lanes.

*Slightly more than $13 million to continue paying half the operating costs of the Hiawatha light rail line; the Northstar commuter rail line; the Cedar Avenue BRT, and the new bus rapid transit service on Interstate 35W South.