MNGOP Speaker Kurt Daudt says Republicans won't fund Southwest light rail

Legislators still need to come up with the final $121 million or so needed to pay for the $1.65 billion Southwest LRT line, but today, new House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said Republicans in his chamber won't pony up for that purpose.

"I am ruling it out," Daudt told MPR, asked about whether he's prepared to rule out the possibility House Republicans would support some sort of SWLRT funding package.

"We are not interested in moving forward on the Southwest light rail project," Daudt added. "I think we need to get real with our priorities in Minnesota on how we spend our transportation dollars. Our plan is to spend them on roads and bridges."

Fox 9 contacted Meredith Vadis, spokesperson for the Met Council, to get her take on Daudt's remarks.

Vadis pointed out that between contributions from the feds and local sources, 85 percent of the money necessary for SWLRT construction is already in place.

"In response to your inquiry, the Governor stated publicly that he plans to propose a half cent metro-wide transit sales tax this session," Vadis wrote in an email. "If passed, that sales tax would pay the state's share of Southwest."

Vadis then explained why she thinks the SWLRT project, which would connect Eden Prairie and downtown Minneapolis, is so important for the region.

"This project is critical to adding the additional transportation capacity in the corridor that businesses will need to grow," she wrote. "Presently there are 210,000 jobs in the corridor, a number that is expected to expand to 270,000 by 2030." 

But Susan Closemore, spokesperson for Speaker Daudt, says the transit sales tax Vadis refers to is a nonstarter.

"I don't think [Daudt] supports a sales tax for light rail," Closemore said.

We asked Vadis if SWLRT might be derailed if the legislature doesn't come up with the $121 million this session.

"I really can't speculate at this point on the hypothetical situation of the project not receiving any sort of new funding," she replied.

-- Image credit: Runner1928

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