Dayton rebuts GOP light rail letter to feds

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is urging President Trump’s transportation chief to support the Southwest Corridor light rail project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie when the state soon applies for federal funding.

Dayton sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in which he stressed the project's broad support among business and community leaders. He also countered a recent letter from letter sent by Republican state lawmakers that criticized SWLRT.

In that March 17 letter, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and 83 other GOP legislators asked Chao to deny a full-funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration that would provide nearly $900 million to build the line. They described Southwest light rail as a “grossly wasteful project” that would be “counter-productive” to state interests.

Dayton acknowledged in his letter that the project does not have unanimous support. But he noted its “strong support” from several key business organizations, as well as the cities and counties along the route. He also said he will protect the longstanding financial commitments that have already been made to the project.

“This project is crucial to the economic future of Minnesota’s largest metropolitan area and the entire state,” Dayton wrote.

Dayton said the state was making final preparations to apply for the full-funding agreement. He expressed confidence that Southwest light rail will meet the agency’s expectations and ultimately exceed ridership and economic development projections.

Dayton also pointed out to Chao that most of the Republicans who sent the earlier letter do not represent the metropolitan area.

“Notably, the three Republican legislators who represent districts along the proposed route did not sign that letter to you,” he wrote.


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