Southwest Light Rail
Poll Shows Solid Statewide Support for Southwest Light Rail
Access to the labor force. Support for job growth. Congestion mitigation. Regional and state competitiveness. Economic development. These are foundational reasons the business community supports extending the metro transit system through the development of the Southwest Light Rail line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. What’s more, the project enjoys solid support across all of Minnesota, not just in the western suburbs and the Twin Cities.
In a statewide poll released the last week of February by TwinWest, the Minneapolis Chamber, and the Saint Paul Chamber, six out of ten Minnesotans support funding for Southwest Light Rail this year, including dedicating $25 million in state bonding dollars to the project. The poll of 700 likely Minnesota voters showed even higher support in the seven-county metro area with 64 percent supporting state funding for the project.
The poll also shows that across the state, 76 percent of Minnesotans agree that we would benefit from having an improved and expanded public transportation system. TwinWest and other area chambers know first-hand from conversations with businesses that the ability to access the area’s workforce as we emerge from a down economic cycle is important. That feedback doesn’t just come from the 45 employers along the line with more than 100 employees today. It comes from small businesses, non-profits and other organizations in the area as well.
Today there are 210,000 jobs located along the Southwest Light Rail corridor. By 2030, the Metropolitan Council estimates that transportation in the corridor will need to support 270,000 jobs, a net growth of 60,000. Simply put, we don’t have enough room to expand roads and bridges to accommodate that growth. A rigorous, locally driven research process found that light rail is the most cost effective means of serving that growth. That local study was submitted to the federal government, who found that out of over 100 similar applications, SW LRT was among the ten best in the country.
Notable in the poll results is that statewide Minnesotans recognize we need to invest in transportation options now. In fact, poll results show that 77 percent agree that if we don’t invest now, our region’s quality of life will suffer.
TwinWest and our chamber partners at Minneapolis and Saint Paul continue to actively support a state investment in Southwest, which allows the project to leverage $9 for every $1 in state bonding investment. Last year, Minnesota committed $5 million in bonding to the project. This year Governor Mark Dayton has included $25 million for the project in his bonding bill. Next year, a final state commitment of $95 million in bonding would enable us to leverage $625 million in federal transit investment funds, along with the balance of $500 million from local sources (Hennepin County Rail Authority, $125 million, and Counties Transit Improvement Board, $375 million).
While the business community knows the capital costs of constructing Southwest Light Rail are significant, we are convinced the benefits for the area and state are far greater. And Minnesotans statewide agree.
Snapshot of the poll results:
61 percent of Minnesotans statewide support a state investment in Southwest Light Rail today.
64 percent of Minnesotans in the seven-county metro area support a state investment in Southwest Light Rail today.
76 percent of Minnesotans agree that Minnesota would benefit from an expanded and improved transportation system such as rail and buses.
69 percent of Minnesotans say they would use public transportation options more often if it was more convenient.
77 percent of Minnesotans agree with the idea that if we don’t invest in transportation options now, our region’s quality of live will suffer.
About the poll: The group of chambers of commerce sanctioned a bipartisan team of nationally renowned pollsters to poll Minnesotans about their attitudes toward transit and the Southwest Light Rail project. The poll was conducted in January, 2012, by Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3), and included 700 likely Minnesota voters.
Southwest Transitway Alliance
Four local chambers of commerce representing southwest metro area businesse formed a business collaboration called the Southwest Transitway Alliance to promote the development of a Southwest LRT line. The TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, the Eden Prairie Chamber, the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, and the Edina Chamber have joined together to provide a unified business voice for the project.
The Alliance will use its business clout to urge approval of a legislative state bonding request to fund the Preliminary Engineering and the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The Alliance also will work to educate the business community and public about this important project and to continue building a strong business coalition of support.
Southwest Light Rail
In partnership with the Minneapolis and Saint Paul chambers of commerce, TwinWest actively participates in the Southwest Transit Alliance, advocating for the Southwest Light Rail transit line.
See the latest project updates on the Southwest Transit Alliance website at www.swtalliance.com.