Design to Begin on Eden Prairie Station, But SWLRT Funding in Doubt

Metro_Transit_Light_Rail.jpgIn August, the Star Tribune reported that the Eden Prairie city council had reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Council to begin the design efforts on the Town Center station on the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit (SW LRT) line.  This is the station that had been deferred two years ago when the costs of the SW LRT exceeded budget. 

Hasn’t funding for SW LRT been denied by the Minnesota legislature and dropped from the 2018 federal budget proposal?  Why are plans going forward to design a station on a light rail line that will not be built? 

It is difficult to keep score on the SW LRT.  Even if one reads the whole Star Tribune article, it is difficult to fully put it in perspective.  Let's review the bidding as we know it:

  • The Town Center station on the proposed Southwest Light Rail line is estimated to cost $7.7M. 
  • In January, at the end of the Obama administration, $6.1M of federal funds were provided to the Met Council to build the Town Center light rail station.

  • Eden Prairie needs to match 20% of that ($1.2M).
  • The Eden Prairie city council struck a deal with the Met Council such that Eden Prairie only needs to come up with $0.5M.  The Met Council and Hennepin County will provide “their financial assistance” to fund the other $0.7M. 

It is not clear from the article who will pay the other $1.6M for the station.  One can only assume that this additional funding will also be coming from metro area residents and taxpayers.

Why the Eden Prairie city council even approved the $0.5M at this point is unclear.  As the article points out, “full funding from the Federal Transit Administration for Southwest and other transit projects nationwide were not included in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.”  Maybe they believe that Congress will add that funding back into the 2018 budget. 

Or perhaps the Eden Prairie city council figured that the Met Council is so desperate to maintain movement on the Southwest Light Rail line that they would agree to kick in more than half of what Eden Prairie needed for the match.  Just speculating…