Southwest transit funding gets boost from business

LRT security
The Lake Street stop on the Hiawatha light rail line on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. Transit advocates and some business leaders said Minnesota is falling behind other regions that have made funding and building public transit a top priority.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Business leaders in the southwestern metro plan to push for more transit funding in the next legislative session.

Transit advocates and some business leaders said Minnesota is falling behind other regions that have made funding and building public transit a top priority. Those groups will push for more stable funding for transportation projects when lawmakers resume their work at the Capitol next month.

"We're behind our competitors. Almost everyone has a more robust transportation system than we do," said Will Schroeer from the Minneapolis- and St Paul-area chambers of commerce. He said recent chamber surveys show strong support for more transit and that the region stands to lose future jobs if it does not improve its system.

"We are starting to lose jobs and talent to those other regions precisely because we're behind on transit," he said.

Planners, public officials and advocates met Wednesday in Minneapolis to discuss the Southwest light rail project. The proposed line would run between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, and could open to riders in 2017.

"This is what people want. Minnesotans and not just in the metro but Minnesotans statewide think that we need more transit and they're willing to pay for more transit," Schroeer said. "We are eager to take that message to the Legislature."

A task force set up by Gov. Mark Dayton released a report earlier this week recommending gas tax and tab fee hikes to help the state pay for transportation.

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