Friday, May 7, 2010

The Feds make all the difference

The Central Corridor line is coming. What has become obvious with the new president and significant changes to evaluating projects is that federal politics ruled most of our local decisions. This was simply the case if planners wanted this project to happen. While most won't agree with the process, it seems the Met Council was willing and able to play the funding game. This actually has been a positive change since we are getting the three additional stations and hopefully some more improvements down the road.

From the MPR story:

Politics in Washington also has contributed to the sometimes bumpy road for Central Corridor. The project was largely engineered during the Bush administration, which created a difficult terrain for planning light-rail lines by making cost-effectiveness the primary criteria for evaluating new transit proposals.

Bell said the "cost-effectiveness index" dominated many of his decisions, as it meant that local planners had to say "no" to a tunnel or an alternate route through the university, just as they first said "no" to the neighborhoods that wanted more stops.

Under the Obama administration, cost-effectiveness is no longer the most important benchmark for evaluating projects. That has given local communities a lot more flexibility. So what would have happened if light-rail planners waited for a more transit-friendly administration in Washington?

McDonough, the Ramsey County commissioner, said elected officials debated that very question nearly three years ago. He said the Central Corridor was competing with more than 100 projects across the country, but it gradually slugged its way to the top. As one of six federal transit projects included in Obama's budget, it's poised to receive a commitment for federal funding this fall.

Even with all the struggle and controversy, the new line will be a great project that will help complete a Twin Cities transportation network.

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