Central Corridor light rail: 60-day congressional review begins

All aboard for St. Paul?
All aboard for St. Paul?

Congress has 60 days to approve funding for its half of the $957 million cost of a light rail line linking Minneapolis to St. Paul.

The clock was set in motion when the Federal Transit Administration sent the approved Full Funding Grant Agreement to Capitol Hill, the Met Council said today.

Boosters say the largest public works project in state history has already has spent $145 million for design, property, and construction. To goose it along, supporters are positioning the project as a way to create 3,400 private-sector jobs.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Construction for the line began on the West Bank in December, with pier work under the Washington Avenue Bridge. Minneapolis Water, Qwest, Xcel Energy, Comcast, and CenterPoint Energy are also beginning utility relocation on the East Bank and Stadium Village. And last month, ground was broken on a massive overhaul of St. Paul's Union Depot, where the Central Corridor line will end. That $243 million project will employ some 3,000 workers over the course of two years or more to refurbish it as a hub for passenger rail and buses.

The Central Corridor line, the next step in a transit plan that began with the Hiawatha Line, is projected to haul 41,000 riders a week by 2030. But its construction has been controversial. The University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio both tried unsuccessfully to stymie the project out of fears that the line would be disruptive. And just the other day, a judge chided the Met Council for failing to adequately address the complaints of business owners along the line that its construction would harm their bottom lines.

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