MnLRT...Moving Minnesoootans Into the Next Century
|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
|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?"
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We should expect more from our elected officials than negative and outdated
|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:
|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'
|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)
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
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
House Republicans Tell Cities and Counties They Cannot
Decide for Themselves
Looking Back: The Economic Crime of the Century
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
|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
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.firstname.lastname@example.org
|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
4.25 (2) capital assistance to purchase or refurbish transit
10.34 (c) Hiawatha Avenue Light-Rail Transit
|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.
|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
Minneapolis City Council Approves Resolution Supporting
|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
Transit for Livable Communities
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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