Southwest light rail connects communities

Despite opposition and lack of funding, legislature continues


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The Minneapolis/St. Paul METRO Lightrail Green Line travels down Marquette Avenue and 5th Street in downtown Minneapolis March 19. The proposed Southwest light rail is currently in the process of receiving funding for construction.

Freshman Amaya Fukuo said she thinks despite the cost of constructing the Southwest Light Rail Transit (LRT), it will provide the most benefits for the community and students.

“It’s going to affect the community positively for the most part because it’s a cheaper sustainable way of energy and transportation that we can use in the community,” Fukuo said. “(The light rail is) great for people that don’t own cars and people that want to help the environment.”

State senator Ron Latz (District 46) said he and several state congressmen have pushed for the legislation for state funding of the light rail to pass.

“I literally have worked since my first term in the house to fund the Southwest LRT, and we’re going to fight to the very end to block whatever efforts are being made to change that now,” Latz said.

According to John Schadl, spokesman for the Metropolitan Council Communications Department, the light rail connects isolated communities to employers.

“We’re trying to connect people that need jobs with jobs, via transit,” Schadl said. “If you’ve ever been at the airport you’ll notice there are a lot of people from the Somali community (who) have jobs at the MSP airport and that’s primarily because that community has access to those jobs through the Hiawatha corridor line.”

Schadl said funds for the project come from both the federal and state governments.

“About half of the funds for the project will come from the federal government (and) federal transit administration. Then the other half is raised locally — the state put in a little bit of money,” Schadl said.

According to Latz, conflicts came up at the state level with opposing legislature.

“There are a number of proposals at the state legislature now to change that whole situation. Three or four bills have been introduced to, in one way or another, prevent the (Metropolitan) Council from proceeding,” Latz said.

Schadl said although the light rail is expensive, the product will benefit generations to come.

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“It’s a very expensive piece of infrastructure. In fact, the Southwest light rail will be the largest public works project in the history of the state of Minnesota. But it’s also an investment for the next half century,” Schadl said.

Fukuo said the light rail will especially help students at Park who aren’t in the district.

“It benefits St. Louis Park specifically because we have a lot of students that go to school in St. Louis Park that live in Minneapolis,” Fukuo said. “Having (a light rail) that runs in St. Louis Park is beneficial to the students of Park because they can have a better way of getting to school.”

Schadl said once the plans are completed, light rail construction should start summer of 2017.