MnLRT...Moving Minnesoootans Into the Next Century

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20001999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996
December 1999 Met Council Finds Costs of Highways-Only Alternative Enormous - Recommends Second LRT Line for Twin Cities!
As a result of the its ongoing analysis of future transportation needs for the Twin Cities, the Met Council has recommended the development of a second LRT line. The recommended route would follow either the Riverview Corridor (from MSP International Airport along the Mississippi River into downtown St. Paul and the State Capitol) or the University Corridor (downtown St. Paul via the State Capitol, the University of Minnesota into downtown Minneapolis) to connect with the soon-to-be under construction Hiawatha Corridor.

Highways Only Approach Costs 10 Times Transit Alternative
In separate action, the Met Council, through a series of public forums, has calculated the costs of a highways-only approcah to transportation over the next 20 years (the 2020 highways only build plan) to amount to $15 billion. By comparision, the 2010 transit plan (limited LRT, improved bus service and fixed freeway bottlenecks) amounts to $1.5 billion. The full 2020 transit plan, with major bus improvements, an extended LRT build and significant commuter rail routes, would amount to $3 billion.

November 1999 State Legislators Ask $400 Million for Highways, Plan to Repeal Funding for Light Rail
In their latest attempt to reverse progress that has been made on building a world-class transportation system for the Twin Cities metro area, anti-rail legislators in the Minnesota State Legislature outlined plans to use tax surpluses from the general tax fund to pay for additional highway construction and road widening. In addition, anti-rail activists in the Minnesota House have detailed plans to rescind $60 million in funding already allocated to the Hiawatha Corridor LRT line. According to Rep. Steve Sviggum, "it would be making a strong statement that this is not a wise use of transit funds. It is not a wise use of taxpayer dollars. . . . The other issue is: Is it going to relieve the congestion on the roads?" Comment: MnLRT and its taxpayer members continue to be perplexed by the poor leadership, lack of knowledge, cynicism and outright deceipt exhibited by certain Legislative leadership. While declaring that costs are too high for LRT and "congestion on roads and highways won't be reduced", the same Legislators are all too willing to spend well over $600 million on one stretch of freeway, 394, on which congestion is worse than ever before. As the past 30 years of highways-only transportation have proven, this outdated approach to transportation puts the Twin Cities in a very precarious situation indeed - the Twin Cities now ranks as the 19th most congested area in the United States.

Our elected representatives, rural, urban and suburban, should play a positive role in shaping the Twin Cities' future, instead of relegating us to status of transportation backwater. They should come clean with taxpayers and admit that only spending more and more tax money on more and wider highways is a fruitless, and in many ways damaging attempt to deal with growing congestion and pollution and proves counter to livable cities and neighborhoods. The highways only approach is an overly simplistic reaction to the diverse transportation needs of Twin Cities residents. We should expect more from our elected officials than negative and outdated misinformation campaigns.

October 1999 Sabo Secures Additional $43 Million for LRT
Early last week Minnesota U.S. Representative Martin Sabo announced that $43 million had been secured as part of this year's Federal transportation funding package for the Hiawatha LRT line. This funding is included in an appropriations bill that will be sent to President Clinton by mid-October. The $43 million comes on top of previously secured federal funding, funds from the State of Minnesota, and additional funding from local sources.
September 1999 Federal LRT Funding Request Stamped
28 September 1999 - Overcoming 30 years of political haggling and targeted mis-information campaigns by anti-rail lobbying groups, Minnesota Transportation Officials, including Governor Jesse Ventura, Transportation Commissioner Elwin Tinklenberg, and Met Council Chair Ted Mondale will send the formal request for $274 million in Federal matching funds for the Hiawatha Corridor LRT Line to Washington D.C. today. If all goes as planned the Hiawatha Line, operating between the Mall of America, MSP International Airport, the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, and downtown Minneapolis, will begin service in 2003.

Meanwhile, longtime ant-rail activists in the Minnesota House of Representatives vowed to continue their longtime efforts to de-rail transportation choice for Twin Cities taxpayers. Representative Carol Molnau, R- from suburban Chaska, who is seeking State and Federal funding for an expansion and widening of Highway 212 through her district, vowed to conduct hearings into the Hiawatha LRT project this fall. According to anti-rail activist Phil Krinkie of R- of Shoreview, state transportation officials "deliberately witheld cost-overrun information".

For additional LRT information:

Minnesota Department of Transportation - LRT site
Metropolitan Council - LRT information site
City of Minneapolis - Light Rail
Hennepin County - LRT
Star-Tribune - search on "Light Rail"

August 1999 Hiawatha Corridor LRT Costs Grow, MnDOT Talks 'Cost Containment'
MnDOT recently re-estimated the 2002 total cost for the almost-underway Hiawatha Corridor LRT line between the Mall of America, Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport and downtown Minneapolis. Total estimate: $548 million compared to the 1997 estimate of $446 million.

Comment from MnLRT: While MnLRT expects MnDOT and other public agencies to watch the budget closely to deliver the greatest possible return on investment, we encourage MnDOT and the Met Council to  deliver the type of high quality LRT service residents and taxpayers expect. This should not include cutting corners to save a few bucks in the short term. As with any project, whether in the public realm or in private business, estimates are rarely completely fixed until all specifications and time frames are known. In the case of Hiawatha, the State added new requirements, the final time-frame was just established, resulting in the cost increase. MnLRT continues to find it quite interesting that the media and certain anti-rail elected officials claim "boondoggle", when we have plently of underestimated highway projects already underway: land acquisition costs alone for a Highway 212 expansion through suburban Chaska and Chanhassen, home district of anti-rail, pro-sprawl Representative Carol Molnau, will now exceed $100 million. Interesting.

Anti-rail State Representative Phil Krinke Slams Light Rail, 'Pedestrian Friendly Neighborhoods'
In a July 31, 1999 Counterpoint in the Star-Tribune, State Representative Phil Krinkie called 'smart growth' and 'pedestrian friendly neighborhoods' "just another cobbled-together conglomeration of government joibber-jabber, a collection of laws, rules, regulations, ordinances, boundaries, density ratios, penalties, fees, fines, subsidies, commissions, pilot programs and tax hikes slathered and ... indecipherable to all but a handful of activists, lobbyists and bureaucrats." Krinkie goes on to claim that "... the result most likely will will be a place with more congestion due to the density ratios, more pollution due to the congestion, and higher prices..." Representative Krinkie concludes "'smart growth' will produce neighborhoods that are fun to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there". 

June 1, 1999 U.S. House Clears Funding for Hiawatha LRT Line.
On Friday May 28 the U.S. House Transportation Appropriations panel approved a bill including $46 million in funding for light rail and $26 million for improvements for Metro Transit. This Federal funding match is now expected to allow MnDOT to finish design stages for the Hiawatha Corridor, to purchase rail cars, and to begin construction. This legislation from the House will now move to conference committee to work through differences with the Senate version of the bill.
May 1999 Minnesota Legislature Passes Funding for Light Rail!!
In the final hours of the 1999 legislative session, state legislators passed an historic bonding bill that includes $60 million for construction of the Hiawatha Corridor LRT line. State funding makes it possible for Minnesota to receive Federal matching funds for the project. Once complete in 2003, the Hiawatha line will connect the Mall of America, MSP International Airport, the west bank of the University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis. MnLRT would like to thank the thousands of citizens, Governor Ventura, and the many state and local elected officials who worked in public and behind the scenes for the passage of LRT funding.

Star-Tribune Commentary: Portland offers up its recipe for making a better city (May 16, 1999)

Star-Tribune Editorial: Light rail: The House is still blocking the tracks (May 9, 1999)

The engine that could, and can (May 9, 1999)

April 26, 1999 Star-Tribune Editorial: Light rail -- Roads-only mentality is shortsighted ©
These are pivotal days. Political maneuvers will soon determine whether Minnesota enters the next century with a modern, balanced transportation system, or whether it continues down a narrow, highway-only path that will cost more and leave the state at a competitive disadvantage. 

If the Legislature fails to approve $60 million to build the Hiawatha light-rail line, Minnesota will have squandered $200 million in federal matching money to begin the crucial first leg of a balanced, metrowide transportation system.

This will have been a tragic retreat. The federal Transportation Equity Act, passed by a Republican Congress two years ago, has attracted great interest nationwide. Competition for the remaining money will be fierce until the legislation's 2004 expiration.

Already the Legislature's reluctance has pushed Hiawatha behind eight other projects in Florida, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Washington, and into a struggle against 10 others. Considering the timing, it's clear that anything short of the full $60 million for Hiawatha pushes Minnesota off the list. After 2004, the deck gets reshuffled. So, this is it.

Blame for failing to act now will fall squarely on the shoulders of Rep. Carol Molnau of Chaska, who chairs the Transportation Finance Committee, and the other House Republican leaders. These are the people to remember when your suburban paradise is lost in a sea of cars and strip malls, when your shipments are delayed by metro traffic, when companies decline to locate or expand here because of backward thinking on transportation. 

This is an ironic burden for Republicans because they consistently emphasize the need to create a competitive business climate. In that they take the long view. If only they would do so on transportation. This editorial page, too, has been slow to realize the role of lightrail as part of a broader network that would encourage less wasteful land-use patterns. The epiphany comes when you realize that the transit debate isn't 
about your preference for driving, or suburban living, or even about current freeway congestion. It's about anticipating the future. Here's the rub: One million new suburbanites will arrive in the 13-county Twin Cities metro over the next 20 years. Where shall they live? How shall they get around?

House Republicans would force nearly all of them to the metro fringes and wed them to the car. For current suburbanites, that means hundreds of thousands of new neighbors. It means 700,000 additional cars on already clogged roadways. It means gridlock and big tax bills. The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates it will cost an extra $10 billion over the next 20 years to build enough roads to maintain the current level of congestion. 

Indeed, to rebuild and widen Interstate Hwy. 35W from downtown Minneapolis to Burnsville and I-494 from Ridgedale to the airport would cost $2 billion. That's more than an entire new multimodal transit system! Add in the costs of sprawl -- sewers, schools, wasted fuel, wasted time -- and you begin to understand the folly of the Republican approach. 

Happily, there's a cheaper, wiser choice. While many of the 1 million newcomers will choose to live on the metro's fringes and drive, a large housing market is emerging for those who want a more urban lifestyle and would like to use transit. If one-third of the newcomers could fill in abandoned and underused land in the cities and inner suburbs, or cluster themselves along transit lines, pressure on the outer suburbs would lessen. Demand for new freeways would decline, as would the expensive expansion of other sprawl infrastructure. 

The state estimates the cost of a metrowide transit network at $2 billion over 20 years. That's two light-rail lines, a major express busway, four rush-hour commuter rail lines and better connecting buses. Building that network plus some badly needed new freeway lanes would still be one-third cheaper than the all-road alternative. 

Critics suggest that lightrail carries high operating costs. Actually trains cost less than buses after five years. And freeways aren't cheap, requiring huge operating and maintenance expenses, especially in Minnesota's harsh climate. 

The state Department of Transportation estimates the Hiawatha light-rail line's gross operating costs at $10 million a year, for example. But a comparable stretch of freeway for a comparable number of travelers would  cost $57 million a year to operate and maintain -- $475,000 for maintenance and $56.5 million for fuel, insurance, license tabs and other costs, not including parking. 

Sen. Dean Johnson, R-Willmar, suggests that departing from Minnesota's roads-only orthodoxy would be a "risk." The greater risk is not acting, not seeking more balance. This is a moment the Legislature must seize. In  10 years Minnesotans will be better able to savor their Republican tax cuts if they're not stuck in traffic. 
© 1999, Star-Tribune

House Republicans Tell Cities and Counties They Cannot Decide for Themselves
MnLRT has learned that the Transportation bill, endorsed by House Speaker Steve Sviggum, and recently passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives strictly forbids Hennepin County or any related political unit from using property tax measures to pay for Light Rail Transit. Apparently the House leadership has determined that taxpayers in Hennepin County cannot make transportation decisions for themselves anymore.

Looking Back: The Economic Crime of the Century
In 1922, most Americans relied on the efficient trolley networks that crisscrossed the cities. Only one in 10 owned an automobile. General Motors (GM) president Alfred Sloan recognized a huge marketing opportunity in the remaining nine. Under his auspices, according to TAKEN FOR A RIDE, GM spearheaded a plan to systematically eviscerate the nation's streetcar companies, replacing them with bus lines that would eventually make way for the ever growing number of private cars. Over the next 30 years, thanks to the automotive industry's energetic public relations campaign, motorization became synonymous with modernization. The great American love affair with the automobile was off and running. 

Weaving together vintage propaganda films, colorful archival footage, and interviews with former and current transportation executives and government officials, activists, historians, and critics, filmmakers Jim Klein and Martha Olson uncover a major force that brought America's rapid transit system to a screeching halt in an astonishingly short amount of time. TAKEN FOR A RIDE is a chilling commentary on GM's infamous slogan: "What's good for General Motors is good for America." 

Starting in the 1920's, the film charges, General Motors executives -- placing their profit motives ahead of the public interest -- masterminded the purchase and destruction of the nation's trolley companies. Tracks were taken up, destroying a mass transit infrastructure that would cost billions to replace. Trolley cars were torched and replaced with GM-manufactured diesel-fueled buses. Some citizens fought to keep their streetcar systems, but to no avail. The citizens of Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St. Paul, for example, wanted to keep their beloved car trolleys, but before long the GM-controlled trolley company had switched to buses, dramatically increasing pollution in Los Angeles. By 1946, National City Lines, a bus company funded and controlled by GM, Standard Oil, and the Firestone tire company, operated public transit in over 80 cities. The ascendancy of the car was soon to follow. Minneapolis' streetcars are still being used to this day --- in Mexico City.

April 14, 1999 Governor Jesse Ventura Asks for Citizen Support for Transit
As the Minnesota House of Representatives moved to block urgently needed transportation reform measures, Governor Jesse Ventura called on the citizens of Minnesota to voice their opinions to their elected representatives on the matter. Following is an email directly from Governor Ventura.
***************

Dear Minnesota Citizen Concerned about Transportation:

The Minnesota House of Representatives GOP Caucus is on the verge of saying "no" to the first positive proposals to do something about congestion on our metropolitan freeways. We all know the delays when we try to drive through certain major routes during anything but off-peak hours. We know that this situation will only get worse as the metropolitan area continues to attract new residents over the next decade. 

It's time to do something. We've wasted years and years on planning if we don't take some action now while Minnesota has a chance to compete and win $250 million in federal funds to support the construction of Light Rail transit on the Hiawatha Corridor. It takes an appropriation of $60 million in state funds to leverage these dollars. If we don't take action right now, there won't be another opportunity until at least the year 2004, and
all those funds will find their way to other cities who do see the vision of a better future.

In my budget, I've also started dedicating funds for road improvements, busways, and commuter rail along major congested corridors. All of these projects need to be combined with smart land use plans to make sure we control the costs and problems of urban sprawl.

Please add your voice to mine at the State Capitol. Send this message on to others who care about this issue and also let the legislators know that you want them to DO SOMETHING about light rail and metro road congestion. I appreciate your support --

Governor Jesse Ventura

Senator Carol Flynn - Sen.carol.flynn@senate.leg.state.mn.us - 651-296-4274
Senator Janet Johnson - Sen.janet.johnson@senate.leg.state.mn.us - 651-296-5419
Representative Tom Workman - Rep.Tom.Workman@house.leg.state.mn.us   - 651-296-5066
Representative Carol Molnau - Rep.carol.molnau@hourse.leg.state.mn.us -  651-296-8872

April 1999: Senate Bill Includes Necessary Funding for Hiawatha LRT Construction
Bucking the anti-rail, anti-transportation-choice frenzy which has swept the Minnesota House of Representatives, the Minnesota Senate Transportation Finance Committee has passed another historic transportation bill including $60 million in state funding for construction of the Hiawatha Corridor LRT line. Known as SF1668, the bill has been forwarded to the Senate Government Finance Committee, its final stop before the Senate floor. Key provisions include:

4.13 Subd. 4. [ELIGIBLE SERVICE.] Transit services eligible for 
4.14 assistance under the program include but are not limited to: 
4.15 (1) public transit; 
4.16 (2) light rail transit; 

4.25 (2) capital assistance to purchase or refurbish transit 
4.26 vehicles, purchase rail lines and associated facilities for 
4.27 light rail transit and commuter rail, purchase rights-of-way, 
4.28 and other capital expenditures necessary to provide a transit 
4.29 service; and 

10.34 (c) Hiawatha Avenue Light-Rail Transit
10.35 $60,000,000 is appropriated from the 
10.36 transit assistance fund to the 
10.37 commissioner of transportation for 
10.38 construction of light-rail transit in 
10.39 the Hiawatha Avenue corridor. This 
10.40 appropriation is available beginning 
10.41 July 1, 2001. The commissioner of 
10.42 transportation and the chair of the 
10.43 metropolitan council must, by February 
10.44 1, 2000, provide recommendations to the 
10.45 legislature regarding timing of 
10.46 spending of this appropriation and 
10.47 whether the project should be 
10.48 constructed utilizing bond proceeds. 
10.49 The recommendations must also include 
10.50 recommendations for other transit 
10.51 projects to be funded from the transit 
10.52 assistance fund. 

April 7, 1999: Anti-Rail Caucus in MN House of Representatives Plans to Scuttle Light Rail for Twin Cities
A powerful anti-rail coalition in the Minnesota House of Representatives, led by House Speaker and Represetative Steve Sviggum, Republican from Kenyon, Minnesota and Transportation Committee Chairwoman Carol Molnau, Republican from Chaska, Minnesota plan to block passage of a critical funding bill for Light Rail along the Hiawatha Corridor. Governor Jesse Ventura had requested $60 million toward the project to secure Federal matching funds. The Hiawatha LRT line, which was to be the first new rail start in Minnesota in over 40 years, had a budget of approximately $440 million. The state of Minnesota is well-prepared to request $200 million in Federal matching funds. Without support from the Minnesota Legislature, this Federal funding will simply go to other Metro Areas that show a stronger commitment to the prosperity and mobility of their citizens. Comment: MnLRT finds it utterly amazing that the Minnesota House of Representatives continues to ignore the mobility and quality of life needs of Twin Cities residents. Despite super-majority public support for transportation choice and a fully-functioning, balanced transportation system, the House leadership continues to play games with the economic, social and environmental integrity of the Twin Cities region. MnLRT strongly urges the House of Representatives to abandon its short-sighted and ignorant anti-transportation-choice stance. The House of Representatives and Speaker Sviggum should play a positive role in helping the Twin Cities improve mobility and livability. This lack of support for Light Rail is a serious step in the wrong direction for Minnesota.
March 1999: Governor Ventura Offers Transportation Choice Message in State of State Address
Excerpt from Governor Ventura's State of the State Address, March 3, 1999 - "ANOTHER BIG QUESTION: Why don't we have a transportation system that works after 25 years of investing in planning? I want to stop planning to do something about transit and urban sprawl and get something done. Our roads have grown more congested and the Twin Cities region has become one of the most sprawling in the country. In Minnesota, every day an area the size of the Mall of America gets paved over, and we're still ``planning'' to do something about sprawl. I want a transit system that gives people choices, so they can get where they want to go, when they need to get there. I'll know we're successful when I can ride lightrail from downtown Minneapolis to the megamall, and take commuter rail from St. Cloud to the Twin Cities. It's time for action on transportation, and it's in the hands of Metropolitan Council Chair Ted Mondale and the Transportation Commissioner El Tinklenberg to develop an action plan that makes sense for the whole state of Minnesota."
January 1999: Governor Ventura Names Rail Transit Supporter New MnDOT Commissioner
Governor Jesse Ventura has appointed Elwyn Tinklenberg to the position of Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Tinklenberg, President of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, has served as mayor of Blaine, manager of public services for Anoka county, and board member for both the Metropolitan Transportation Advisory Board and Regional Transit Board. The new Commissioner has been instrumental in helping the state explore commuter rail projects and potential rail corridors. Welcome aboard Mr. Tinklenberg!

Next Public LRT Meeting
The next public LRT meeting will be held January 7, 1999. The Downtown LRT Open House and Presentation will be held at the Downtown Central Mpls Public Library, Heritage Hall. Open house at 5:30 pm, presentation begins at 6 pm.

Minneapolis City Council Approves Resolution Supporting Light Rail
As planning for LRT along the Hiawatha Corridor continues, the City of Minneapolis passed a critically important resolution supporting LRT and its role in shaping the future of the city and surrounding neighborhhods. The City of Minneapolis should be applauded for recognizing LRT's role in preserving neighborhood livability, promoting neighborhood re-investment, attracting new employment opportunities, improving residents' transportation options, and promoting the continued growth, accessability, and economic vitality of downtown Minneapolis.

 


 
 
Big Picture | Facts | Get Involved | About MnLRT | Newsletters | Web Resources | Contact
Special thanks to Transit for Livable Communites, a non-partisan, grass-roots transportation advocacy group, whose objectives are to communicate critical transportation decision-making information to the Minnesota public.

For further information contact:

Minnesotans for Light Rail Transit
email: mnlrt@reocities.com 

Transit for Livable Communities
email: barbt@spnec.org
tel: 651-767-0298
P.O. Box 14221
St. Paul, MN 55114-1221

This is the experimental site under development for Minnesotans for Light Rail Transit and Transit for Livable Communities. Once the site gets closer to completion it will be moved to a more prominent and permanent location.

Last updated: April 1999

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