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President Obama has decided to expedite the Southwest Corridor light rail transit project that’s in the planning stages to run between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. The Federal Transit Administration is responsible for 50 percent of the $1.25 billion project’s cost.

Obama speeds up Southwest Corridor LRT project

The proposed route for the Southwest LRT Project (Metropolitan Council)

President Obama today announced that his administration is expediting the Southwest Corridor light rail transit project that’s in the planning stages to run between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

Obama in a news release this morning singled out Southwest Corridor and a new rail transit station in Cleveland to be part of the We Can’t Wait initiative he created by executive order earlier this year.

The initiative calls on the federal Office of Management and Budget to improve the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects.

The Federal Transit Administration is responsible for 50 percent of the project’s $1.25 billion cost. The line is slated to start running in 2018.

Legislators from the western suburbs were disappointed that the bonding bill passed during the 2012 legislative session didn’t specifically include money for Southwest.

The project got a small but meaningful injection of money last month when Gov. Mark Dayton awarded the project $2 million from a pool of funds in the bonding bill for infrastructure projects. Dayton awarded the money even after officials from his Department of Employment and Economic Development had given the project a relatively low ranking among the projects that requested the funding. Officials from the Metropolitan Council said the money was needed to keep the project eligible for federal funding.

Judy Johnson, government affairs director for the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, cheered the White House’s decision.

“In today’s announcement, the White House confirms this is one of the most important transportation projects in the country and they’re going to do everything they can to help move this project along as quickly as possible,” Johnson said.

The Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority is scheduled to take public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for the project on November 13, 14 and 29.


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