by Scott McClallen
The Federal Transit Administration Monday awarded Minnesota’s Green Line Light Rail Extension, also called the Southwest LRT project, a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) of nearly a billion dollars.
Southwest LRT is a 14.5-mile line with 16 stations serving Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.
The FFGA provides nearly a billion dollars in federal funds to match over a billion dollars of local funding and lays the groundwork for Minnesota’s largest-ever public works project, according to the state.
The $928.8 million FFGA will cover nearly half of the more than $2 billion cost of the Southwest LRT Project.
The largest chunk of other funding, $591.4 million, comes from Hennepin County.
The Hennepin County Railroad Authority funded $199.5 million; the now-defunct County Transportation Infrastructure Board contributed $218.9 million; Minnesota paid $30.3 million; and local entities gave $26.4 million.
“From a member of Congress to this state’s Governor, the Southwest LRT has long been an important project to me,” Governor Tim Walz said in a statement.
“While Southwest LRT is a project in the Twin Cities, there isn’t a county in the state this project won’t impact, from the businesses supplying construction material to creating thousands of jobs. I am pleased the Federal Transit Administration and the Trump Administration has recognized the importance of this project to Minnesotans. I can’t wait for my first ride.”
Construction started in November 2018 with a planned opening in 2023.
“Today is a joyous day for the people of Minnesota,” Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle said in a statement. “With the FFGA firmly in hand, the questions hanging over Southwest LRT are finally answered.”
Zelle continued: “This is not only a great day for the Metropolitan Council but is an affirmation of the hard work, long nights, and thousands of meetings our neighborhood and business community members endured to see this project to fruition. Southwest LRT isn’t just another LRT line, it is a vital link between workers and businesses, people and housing and is a backbone of a robust 21st century transportation system.”
Jan Callison, Hennepin County Commissioner and Chair of the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, called the announcement “a momentous day for Hennepin County and the Twin Cities Metro” in a statement.
“Securing full funding for Southwest LRT firmly sets the course for completion of the next leg of a modern light rail system that will carry us into the future,” Callison added.
“The steadfast commitment of city and project partners over many years and through many challenges made this moment possible. Cities, agencies and private sector partners have worked together in unprecedented ways to prepare for the opportunities light rail will bring to the Southwest Corridor. The value of these collaborative efforts is already evident.”
Callison said the project would provide for more growth and development throughout its stations.
Business leaders applauded the announcement.
“[Southwest LRT] will provide long-term benefits to the businesses in our region,” Shannon Full, President of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
“The light rail will increase our overall economic competitiveness by providing effective transportation for employees allowing for companies to attract and retain top talent as well as serving as a catalyst for economic development with new businesses, expansion of existing businesses, and new jobs.”
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