Hennepin Co., Other Partners To Cover SWLRT Funding Gap

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Southwest Light Rail Transit project, whose future looked bleak after hopes of a special state legislative session were recently dashed, may now have another chance.

Hennepin County officials announced Tuesday that the county will put in another $20.5 million in funding for a total financial commitment of $185 million – which is 10 percent of the project’s total cost.

RELATED: Minn. Transit Officials Scrambling To Find Funds For Southwest LRT

The county’s increased commitment, along with that of the Metropolitan Council and the Counties Transit Improvement Board, will make up for the $144.5 million that was supposed to be paid for by the state.

“This is not a perfect solution but it reflects a willingness by local government to act after legislative inaction,” said Regional Railroad Authority Chair Peter McLaughlin. “Today’s vote keeps the project moving forward, it avoids costly delays and it nails down missing pieces needed for the federal application that will ring more than $900 million to Hennepin County.”

The Metropolitan Council announced earlier in August that inaction from state lawmakers added $19 million to the project’s budget.

Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt blamed each other for the breakdown in special session talks, with SWLRT being the major sticking point.

Daudt, who is against funding the project, says Dayton refused to compromise if SWLRT was not part of the deal.

The federal government has threatened to pull millions in funding to the project and reroute it to other cities for similar projects.

The SWLRT line, which would run from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, is ninety percent finished in terms of design and engineering. Construction is supposed to begin next year.

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