Light-rail cost must be significantly reduced

The proposed Hiawatha light-rail line received two important approvals this week and narrowly met a May 1 deadline established by the Minnesota Legislature. The Legislature threatened to remove $100 million in state funding if the final design had not yet begun by the deadline. Fortunately, the project is now on schedule for construction to begin in the fall, despite recent setbacks in popular support over the past few months. The total price, however, is still far too expensive and should be drastically reduced.
Implementing the light-rail project is still worthwhile, and the federal approval will thankfully allow it to proceed. The Legislature’s threat to remove funding was narrowly averted, as federal approval for the project was finally granted earlier this week. The Federal Aviation Administration also granted approval for the Metropolitan Airports Commission to spend $70 million for the line’s extension to the airport and the necessary modifications.
Unfortunately, though, the total cost of $548 million is ridiculously expensive for a 12-mile light-rail line. Such a design was originally proposed because it is significantly more inexpensive than alternatives, as often new tracks do not have to be constructed, which would be necessary with a subway line, for instance.
Some form of fixed mass transportation is necessary for the metro area. While the project narrowly escaped a loss of necessary funding, next time it might not be so fortunate. To ensure that it meets future deadlines and requirements, however, the cost must be drastically reduced.