around Minnesota’s Twin Cities could become a little less congested if Gov. Tim
Pawlenty gets his way.
without the Legislature’s endorsement, Pawlenty, a Republican, said Aug. 3 he
has found a way to funnel $22.5 million to launch work on a commuter rail line
connecting downtown Minneapolis to its northern suburbs.
told a press gathering that traffic congestion is one of the state’s biggest
problems. The commuter line would extend 40 miles to Big Lake, MN.
governor’s plan includes using $2.5 million from the Twin Cities Metropolitan
Council to secure $10 million in federal matching funds, according to a written
statement released by Pawlenty’s office. The funding would be used to buy land
along the corridor and to continue negotiations with the Burlington Northern
Santa Fe Railway, which owns the line.
federal dollars were slated to be lost if not used by the end of September. The
Northstar Corridor Development Authority, which represents local communities
along the planned line, is planning to vote this week to contribute an
additional $10 million to help design the effort.
total cost of the rail line is estimated at $265 million. The Metropolitan
Council is expected to vote on the proposal as early as next week.
acknowledged some risk in moving to buy land without the Legislature setting
aside money for the bulk of Northstar. But he said he believes most lawmakers
support the project regardless of party affiliation.
lawmakers said the governor has done an end run around the Legislature.
proposals for this year’s bonding bill, the state Senate – which is controlled
by the Democratic Farm Labor party – included only a fraction of the dollars
hoped for by rail supporters. The Republican-controlled House struck the
project from its bill entirely. Ultimately, no bonding bill passed.
Northstar was killed in the House,” state Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville,
told The Associated Press. “Now that we’re out of session, there’s
nothing we can do about it … This project has not received the support of the
said lawmakers’ intent in crafting several statutes in recent years was to keep
projects such as this from moving forward without legislative approval. But
those statutes don’t appear to prohibit what Pawlenty plans to do.
think from the governor’s perspective, it’s a done deal,” Holberg said.