Transit focus of State of the Region speech

Transit expansion was the focus of the Metropolitan Council's annual State of the Region speech Monday in St. Paul.

Chair Sue Haigh praised Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal for a quarter-cent metro sales tax to raise $250 million a year in stable transit funding.

Haigh said the funding would help expand the transportation system by adding new light rail, bus rapid transit and other transit ways.

"It will greatly accelerate the build-out of our regional transit system and our transit ways. It will expand our local bus service, our express bus service. It will allow us to build streetcars, rapid bus, LRT and BRT," Haigh said.

Haigh also stressed the importance of targeted development projects near transit stations.

"Transit expansion is a means to an end," Haigh said. "The end is job growth. The end is economic prosperity. The end is the quality of life in this region. It's ultimately about people. It's about where they are going to live and where they are going to work."

Almost 1 million new residents are projected to make the Twin Cities metro their home over the next 30 years, Haigh said.

She delivered her keynote address at the newly restored Union Depot in downtown St. Paul — a new transportation hub for existing and future bus and rail service.

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