New light rail line bill passed

May help reduce traffic, but further investments needed.

The Minneapolis City Council approved the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project in a 10-3 vote Friday, providing the final consent necessary to begin construction.

Scheduled to open in 2019, the Southwest Corridor is estimated to cost $1.65 billion. The route will begin in downtown Minneapolis and connect with St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.

The project’s proponents believe the Southwest line will reduce traffic congestion on major freeways and provide a more affordable transportation option for low-income commuters.

Opponents of the SWLRT Project, however, worry that the extension will damage the water table or the chain of lakes. Several council members expressed concern about voting before the publication of an updated review of the project’s environmental effects. Since the vote already commenced, regardless of these concerns, some of the plan’s opponents are planning to sue.

Other critics of the SWLRT project argue that taxpayers are being forced to fund a route that does little to benefit the residents of downtown Minneapolis. The 21st Street station, in particular, attracted criticism for its low-density population and wooded surroundings.

While we commend the Minneapolis City Council for taking steps to improve the city’s public transportation options, we also hope to see further projects directed at improving public transportation for residents living in the downtown Minneapolis area. Investment in city buses could help to extend bus routes to neglected areas, improve lighting and shelters around bus stations, and increase the number of buses servicing heavily trafficked areas.