Lawmakers consider bill to temporary halt light rail development

Lawmakers consider bill to temporary halt light rail development

Lawmakers consider bill to temporary halt light rail development

State lawmakers are considering a last-minute bill that would stop spending on some new light rail projects. The pause would be in place until the Southwest Light Rail project is done.

It’s the latest legislation to call the Metropolitan Council into question.

“This is kind of a way to put a spotlight on the Met Council,” said Sen. Jeff Howe, who introduced the bill in the Senate. “I think if the Met Council could take the time and really focus on what they need to do here, I think they could be successful but they haven’t proven they can get it done.”

The project is nearly a billion dollars over budget and it’s years behind schedule.

“A disaster, that’s what it’s been,” said Howe. “It’s been a money pit.”

His proposed legislation would temporarily prevent the Met Council from spending any money on project development for light rail transit capital projects, including planning, design and construction. According to the bill, it will expire when the Southwest Light Rail project begins revenue operation. It applies to Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramey, Scott and Washington Counties.

“Let’s see this one get done, let’s have them prove to us they can manage something and get it to completion, before we start another project,” said Howe.

The House companion bill has bipartisan authors.

The proposal is welcomed by Mary Pattock, who lives blocks from Green Line Extension construction. She also served on the task force that recently looked at whether the Met Council should be restructured amid criticism of the project. The task force released its recommendations earlier this year.

“I think it’s really sensible and I think it’s a good stopgap measure,” said Pattock. “What we really need to do is take construction away from the Met Council and put it in the hands of people who do this, who know what they’re doing.”

State lawmakers earlier this session introduced a separate bill that would take the job of building future light rail projects away from the Met Council and give it to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

For Pattock, creating accountability will be key moving forward.

“Accountability was the core issue that everybody on the task force was able to agree on,” she said. “It’s a runaway train and nobody is stopping it and I’m really getting tired of the Legislature stroking their chins and saying, ‘Yes, there’s a problem here.’ We need some action.”

A spokesperson for the Met Council declined our request for an interview with Chair Charlie Zelle and instead said in a statement, “The bill was introduced in the House last week and in the Senate today, and the Met Council is reviewing the language. Additional comment would come if or when the bill is scheduled for a legislative hearing.”