Minneapolis streetcar plan wins unanimous support from City Council

The Minneapolis City Council has approved a plan to finance part of the cost of a proposed streetcar line.

The proposed line would run from near K-mart at the intersection of Lake St. and Nicollet Ave. northward past Kramarczuk's on East Hennepin Ave.

The Legislature this year gave the city permission to redirect property taxes from several buildings along the proposed route to pay for the project. The city estimates the new "value capture district" would cover about a quarter of the $200 million cost of building the streetcar line.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said he will announce a plan to secure the rest of the funding by the end of the year.

"I'll go to Mars if it gets us more money for this thing, but the bottom line is that we need to knock down every door possible to finish the job here. This is a huge, huge action for not only transportation, but growing this city," Rybak said.

Critics say streetcars are an overpriced alternative to buses. The funding mechanism approved today has also drawn criticism, because it will divert money from other city and county priorities.

Outside city hall, the plan has critics. Former Minneapolis City Council Member Paul Ostrow said it lacks transparency.

"I myself have questions about streetcars as a good investment, but if it is a good investment, then the council and the mayor really should put it through the budget process and make the tough choices," Ostrow said. "Tell us what they're not going to do because of it. Tell us what taxes might be raised because of it. And this really does an end-run around the normal budget process."

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