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December 1997: Star-Tribune Editorial Board Comes Out Against Light Rail Along Hiawatha Corridor
In its most recent editorial about transportation in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, "Going for the federal ‘Gift Horse’", Sunday December 7, 1997, the Star-Tribune tells citizens only part of the story and misrepresents the transportation crisis facing the Twin Cities. The editorial headline reads "Before committing to spend $406 million on just one transit route, someone ought to consider how much more might be accomplished if that cash were spent a different way." What different way is it that the Star-Tribune suggests? More and expanded highways, the "different way" the Twin Cities has been trying for over 3 decades?

The Star-Tribune does a disservice to its readers and to citizens by pointing out only part of the story. While every public investment made by the citizens of Minnesota should be vigorously scrutinized to make sure we maximize our return on investment, in stating the $406 million cost for "just one transit route", the Star-Tribune fails to point out that Minnesota just spent over $460 million on just one highway, I394. This "investment" has failed to deliver the promised results - congestion in the western metro area is worse than ever.

The editorial suggests we would be better off with high-speed bus lanes instead of Light Rail along Hiawatha. That viewpoint misses the point entirely. No other metro area in the country that is serious about a balanced transportation system, including Portland, St. Louis, Dallas, San Diego and now Seattle, has based its entire system on "high-speed bus lanes", as suggest by the editorial. While buses should be an integral part of our regional transportation strategy, buses alone do not provide the high speed connections, carrying capacity, comfort and user-friendliness, and infrastructure to make a real difference for mobility in the Twin Cities.

The Star-Tribune should be part of the solution to our transportation crisis, not part of the problem. We have spent Billions in cash continually expanding our highway system, while congestion, commuter frustration, and noise and pollution in neighborhoods has continually worsened. All of our future transportation choices, including highways, buses and LRT will cost money. As part of a regional transportation plan to provide real transportation choice, LRT is a wise investment for our future. The Twin Cities cannot afford to stall any longer. LRT will be wise investment in the economic, social and environmental health of the Twin Cities.

November 1997: Citizens Respond to Governor Arne Carlsons LRT Remarks
The Twin Cities is at a transportation crossroads. According to MnDOT Commissioner James Denn, "The Twin Cities metropolitan area highway system is facing a fast-growing crisis of congestion. Currently, there are 100 miles of freeway congested during commuting times every day in the region, and that number is expected to double within 20 years. Congestion today is growing at an average annual rate of three to four percent, with 10 percent annual growth not uncommon in certain corridors." The threat of traffic gridlock and ever increasing commute times, increased noise and pollution in urban neighborhoods, and decreased livability in many communities has become a reality. Our metro area has added roughly 500 hundred miles of highway capacity over the last 10 years, including 394, 169, 35E, and 494 expansions. Despite the costly construction, congestion has only worsened. In each case traffic levels have risen to fill the available capacity. In addition, MnDOT has estimated that it will need a 34 cents per gallon increase in the State gas tax just to maintain current mobility levels. The Twin Cities is truly in a transportation crisis mode. 

Our elected officials must take our transportation situation seriously. We need a realistic and workable transportation vision for the Twin Cities region to maintain its economic, social, and environmental integrity as well as ensure our overall quality of life.Check out the full response.

1 October 1997: Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson Speaks about LRT on Minnesota Public Radio: On October 1, 1997 Governor Carlson responded to a caller question on MPR's Midday regarding the lack of a world class transportation system in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. His response highlights a lack of understanding about rapid rail transportation and its success in other cities across the U.S. and around the world.

Caller question about light rail transit: 
There are now over 20 cities across the U.S. that are either expanding existing light rail systems or adding new ones. Why is the Twin Cities area not one of them? And, secondly, what do you think Minnesota should do to get a world class transportation system?

Governor Arne Carlson's response: 
"A world class? Ha ha ha! Well I'll tell you this. It's a great question. I mean that. I don't mean to brush you aside. And I haven't read or heard of, quote, a good answer. Every study comes back and says gee we need light rail, we need some form of mass transit, blah, blah, blah blah (sic). But, 1), nobody wants to pay for it because now you are talking billions of dollars and nobody has come up with a plan to pay for it, 2), nobody can figure out the politics of who gets the first route, the second, the third route etc., and 3), you get a public attitude that says 'mass transit is absolutely wonderful for my neighbor, but me, its, my car'. 

And I truthfully can't sit here today and say, quote, 'I have an answer'. We are going to experiment with a lot of different things. We are experimenting now with increased buses. And trying to make the bus as available and as accessible as humanly possible.

Because we have to recognize one thing. And that is we don't have the density that a lot of cities have. We have a sprawl. We have a spread out population. So there is no one geographic point in the metro area that you can go to and say that it has a high density that can sustain some kind of an ongoing transit system, lets say for even 16 hours per day. It is not there. That means that somebody else has to pick up the deficit that is created by that system.

We have probably had more studies on light rail than any community in America. And there is not one single study has come back and said here, quote, is the solution. Therein lies the dilemma. I really cannot fault the political system because they have debated the issue endlessly. They have spent millions of dollars trying to study the problem and study by the way people's attitudes towards transportation. 

And it all gets back to the same thing. And that is, for whatever reason, we are not prepared yet to go into light rail and so the focus has been on approving the bus system and that is likely the way it is to remain for the next several years."

25 July 1997: House Passes Transportation Bill With Funds for Transit in Twin Cities
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, July 23, 1997 passed a bill containing $52 million for high-speed rapid transit along the Hiawatha Corridor, Highway 55/Hiawatha Avenue. Representative Martin Sabo, who has been a long standing advocate for rapid transit in Minnesota, will head the effort to secure the necessary funding. Some of the funding from the bill could also be used to study additional rapid transit routes from MSP International Airport to downtown St. Paul and from downtown Minneapolis to a transportation hub in Anoka county. For more details see the article from Thursday, July 24, 1997 by Greg Aamot of the Twin Cities' Star-Tribune .
July 1997: Commuter Rail Experiments in Minnesota
For 3 days in early July hundreds of rail, rapid transit and community supporters turned out to tour and test ride the commuter rail demo in Washington, Anoka, Ramsey and Hennepin counties and in St. Cloud. It remains to be seen whether strong citizen, city government and county government support for rapid transit will be enough to secure its development with a Governor (Arne H. Carlson) and a Met Council openly hostile towards rapid public transit.

(Copyright Associated Press 1997) "ST. PAUL (AP) -- Commuters in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas will have a chance next month to try out a form of transportation already widely used in Europe, Asia and the East Coast. For the first three days of July, a 141-passenger commuter train will make more than a dozen runs. On July 1, the public can ride the train from Coon Rapids to ElkRiver, Becker and St. Cloud in the afternoon. Then on July 2, thetrain will go from St. Paul to Minneapolis, Robbinsdale and Osseo. On July 3, the train will run around Washington County to Hastings, Cottage Grove, Newport and St. Paul. "People should come away very much impressed by the train,'' said Mary Hauser, chairwoman of the Washington County Rail Authority. ''After all, they'll be getting first-class, chauffeur-driven rides.'' The demonstration is being sponsored by Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties to build support for commuter trains that use existing tracks. The counties want to buy trains to run from St. Cloud to Hastings on Burlington Northern Santa Fe track. The Daimler-Benz train can be powered by either electricity or diesel fuel, costs $6 million for three cars and is cheaper than electrified light rail, which would require special track." 

Call (612)829-9062 to reserve a seat. For infomation about routes through Hennepin County call 612-348-9260 or 348-9261. On July 2 the train will stop at Nicollett Island at 8:15 am, Robbinsdale at 9:00 am and other stops throughout the day.

May 1997: Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson Vetoes Elected Met Council Bill
In a move that strengthens Minnesota's position as a rapid transit backwater, dependent on the automobile for most transportation, Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson vetoed legislation put forward by the Minnesota Legislature which would have made the Met Council elected by residents of the Twin Cities Metro Area. The Met Council is an unelected government body that sets, among other things, transportation policy for the Twin Cities. The Met Council serves at the pleasure of the Governor and has been widely criticized for its policies which encourage urban sprawl and for its biases toward real estate development and automobile/road construction interests.
23 JAN 1997: Governor Arne Carlson Proposes Largest Road Construction Program in Minnesota's History
A 23 JAN 1997 press release from Governor Arne Carlson's Office on his proposed 1997 budget states, the Governor's proposed budget includes "a $3.4 billion investment in transportation including the largest road construction program in state history. $890 million will be dedicated to the state highway construction program, a $25 million increase; $10 million will go toward metropolitan transit, an 11 percent increase; and $3 million will be spent on Greater Minnesota transit, a 12 percent increase."
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