- Minnesota Republicans have introduced a state legislative resolution that would authorize an attempt to redirect $929 million in federal funds away from a controversial Minneapolis light rail expansion and instead to state road and bridge projects, according to the Star Tribune.
- After lawmakers refused to fund the $1.9 billion light rail project last year, local agencies came up with the money themselves, a move that made the project eligible to receive matching federal funds.
- The extensive paperwork for such a sizeable grant is typically so project-specific that there's no reason to believe the FTA would agree to such a request from Minnesota legislators, but state Sen. David Osmek, who authored the resolution, said he would rather see the grant money lost altogether than have it fund a project that he called "not supported" and "fundamentally unworkable."
While the Federal Transit Administration approved the project in December, the Minneapolis-area regional Metropolitan Council, which is spearheading the project, planned to apply for funding this month, with anticipated receipt in July.
After lawmakers denied the project $145 million in funding last year, the council, with the support of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, was able to cobble together the money from other local agencies, much to the consternation of state lawmakers, who called it "an end run" around their decision. Although it seems that the project is otherwise set to start construction this year, an activist group has filed a lawsuit against the project in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis challenging the proposed route through recreational areas.
Community pushback in Minnesota is similar to the situation in Maryland, where residents of Chevy Chase, MD, filed a suit against the $5.6 billion, 16.2-mile Purple Line project. While the judge did not rule on the group's objections that the rail line would destroy a recreational path, he did halt the project based on an alleged discrepancy in potential ridership figures. The judge ordered the FTA to re-review those numbers before he decides as to whether project officials must submit an updated environmental review, a slow process that could hurt the chances of the Purple Line being built.