Pawlenty willing to accept Central Corridor

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is willing to accept the new corridor plans, with five exceptions for it to be made.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty opened the door Wednesday for lawmakers to move forward in funding the Central Corridor this session, but some lawmakers say the University is getting in the way.

Outlining his willingness to fund the $70 million transportation project, Pawlenty included five conditions.

Pawlenty’s conditions include finding a resolution of the “mitigation costs” requested by the University. The University has favored the Northern Alignment of the Central Corridor over the alternate route running along Washington Avenue.

While legislators had asked the governor to outline his position, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL- St. Paul, said the condition relating to the University is one the Legislature has no way of fixing. It exists solely between the University and the Metropolitan Council, she said.

If the issue goes unresolved, it could lead to the end of the Central Corridor, at least in this session.

Calling the University-related condition “problematic,” Hausman said the school is a “big, big obstacle” in the project’s path and its Northern Alignment position the “biggest threat” to the future of the whole project.

For its part, the University maintains Northern Alignment is the best way to pursue the Central Corridor, University spokesman Mark Cassutt said in an e-mailed statement.

“This is a billion-dollar public investment that will have a lasting impact on our region and campus,” he said. “It’d be irresponsible to not do it right.”

While no specific changes have been made, Cassutt said at a Central Corridor Management Committee hearing Wednesday, the timeline for consideration was adjusted, something he called “promising.”

Cassutt said the CCMC is awaiting more information regarding the Northern Alignment and is considering the route as an option for the Central Corridor.

The project was originally included in the state’s bonding bill, but Pawlenty vetoed it, surprising a number of lawmakers.

In a previous postveto interview, Hausman said Pawlenty “single-handedly killed the central corridor,” and called the axing of the project “the tragedy of the bill.”

Since the veto, legislators have come out in support of getting the project done. In a press conference earlier this month, Speaker of the House Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said she’ll remain the “the optimist in getting this done,” referring to the vetoed project.

“We are absolutely committed to the Central Corridor project, as a House,” she said. “We feel very strongly about the project.”

Despite the optimism, Anderson Kelliher said it was unclear what legislators would have to do to secure funding for the project, and added it could find its way into a second bonding bill or the state’s budget bill.

Jake Grovum is a senior staff reporter.