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Pawlenty Throws Light Rail off the Tracks, Share Your Comments

April 07, 2008 By Minnesota 2020 Readers
On Monday, Governor Tim Pawlenty used his veto pen as an axe to chop a critical $70 million investment in the Central Corridor Light Rail line.  By slashing $70 million, the Governor has wrecked nearly half a billion dollars in federal funding.  Without the federal money, light rail will not happen.

After failing to stop a comprehensive transportation package earlier in the year, the Governor is once again playing games with Minnesota's transportation future.

We want to know what you think.  Click here to send us your comments.  We'll be posting your thoughts here as they come in.

Here are your comments. We have even more of them in the latest section of Your Take:

I am very disappointed with the cut in the light rail funding.  It can greatly reduce congestion in the downtowns.  I also think there were other items that did not measure up to the 'state funding' criteria.  If they are of regional significance then the region should support the funding.
Robert Eddy

I am surprised that of all the things to put his veto pen to, that Pawlenty included this very critical item.
Betsy Baker
St. Louis Park

Our governor has no idea how serious our traffic problems are. He doesn't sit on the freeways, I'm sure of that. And he is indifferent towards the environment. I am stunned once again.
Elizabeth Myrick

Historically, there has been a particular jack pine redneck Republican contingent in the Minnesota legislature who have stymied mass transit.  "Mass transit is for the welfare losers."  I think that changed during the passage of the last transportation bill when it was widely publicized that the trucking industry was highly supportive of mass transit to GET PEOPLE OFF THE ROADS because the Twin Cities is suffering an economic disadvantage without 21st century mass transmit plans like so many other cities.  Not to mention the environmental effects now that we are experiencing unhealthy air days.  The bottom line is that I hope the governor appreciates how out of step with the state he is with this unpopular move.  It might have had a minimum base of support 10 years ago but the loss of this federal money can only be seen as astoundingly stupid today.
Steve Christenson
St. Louis Park

It seems to me that Gov. Pawlenty would like to be viewed as a new age politician, a leader for the 21st century. Instead he has become a backwards reactionary, blocking new and bold and useful projects, and staying firmly rooted in his ridiculous "no new taxes" pledge of ages ago. I gather he hopes to be the vice presidential candidate, which may be influencing his current decisions. Just one more reason to vote Democratic.
Alice Strand

Bravo to Gov Pawlenty for vetoing all these frivilous pet projects.  The main priority is the highway and bridge system in this state.  Does commerce get hooked up or put on a light rail train?  Heck no!  It is shipped via air, cargo rail and HIGHWAY!  Think about that the next time you buy groceries or any item for that matter.
James Konig

As usual, Gov. Pawlenty has put his selfish political ambitions above the wishes and wellfare of the people.
M.R. DePrey

Why does Gov. Pawlenty want to punish St. Paul? Theories abound but the point is, we cannot let him doom the funding for the central corridor project. Rise up, make yourself heard. This investment in the future is a link to a cleaner, less congested environment and the next smart step in the building of our light rail infrastructure. Tim Pawlenty does not lose much sleep considering Minnesota's future. He has only to consult his same old tax motto that he wears like a tattoo he got on a bender. Oh, for some progressive leadership.
Wendy O'Leary
St. Paul

I think it's very sad that Pawlenty rejects the idea that an enviromental impact study on a high speed passanger tail line would not benefit our state. Pawlenty needs to WAKE UP and come to understand the a light rail system between Duluth and the Twin Cities would bring so much economic growth to our state, especially to a city like Duluth!
Pawlenty is clearly confused!
Kaye Hawkins

On the line-item veto of the central corridor LRT, I don't know about political games by the governor. I support LRT most especially in high transit locations, and I believe light rail helps move the metro area closer to a time where more people can choose live without a car, or one less car, and that's where we need to be. Electric travel is the future, and will move us away from needing as much oil for transportation. So much money is "wasted" on high gasoline prices, it's crazy to me that more isn't done to reduce our dependency. Narrow-minded self-interested opinions that transit should be "self-funded" bother me more than budget choices. So I hope the veto can be overruled.
Tom Ruen
Columbia Heights

Since my husband and I bought our first home off of University Avenue in St. Paul in 2005, we have been looking forward to the positive change the light rail would bring to our neighborhood and how it would benefit our neighbors who use public transportation every day. Just a few weeks ago I was riding the number 50 bus to Minneapolis and it was so full that the driver had to leave people at the stop. A man standing in the aisle started chanting, "bring on the train! Bring on the train! Bring on the train!" It put a smile on my face and I imagined a brighter future on that gray, winter day. Today the clouds are still around, but I have hope that one day our leaders will shine through the clouds and do what is right.
Jenna Johnson
St. Paul, Hamline Midway Neighborhood

I applaud Governor Pawlenty for his line item vetoes. He demonstrated true leadership in reigning in the out of control spending by our legislature. Fiscal discipline is needed at our Capital; a skill that is apparently too difficult for the DFL.
Mike Downing
White Bear Lake

I would like to understand the Governor's true motivation for appearing to be against transportation infrastructure. It's difficult not to be cynical while listening to him defend actions that smell a lot like political gamesmanship. I just don't see what there is for him to to gain (politically or otherwise) by vetoing items he originally seemed to be supporting. Any Minnesotan paying attention to this has to be baffled.
Bob MacNeal
St. Paul

A detail, but an important one, regarding the Governor's statement justifying his veto:  He claimed that, "It used to be that the local communities who wanted these projects {LRT or commuter rail) would have to pay half the operating costs of the project.  That was eliminated, so now the state is expected to pick up the full tab on that project."

This is UNTRUE and conveniently stirs up animosity in Greater MN.  The fact is that counties will still be paying for half of the operating costs of these projects but will be using the regional sales tax, not the local county property.  This is a huge improvement in policy for funding the operation of a piece of regional infrastructure.  The Governor was either misinformed or deliberately misleading the people of MN.  Neither is acceptable.
Peter McLaughlin
Hennepin County Commissioner

Global warming is happening right now, so we are at a crossroads, for those who are smart enough to recognize it. This means that public transportation, and light rail, figures prominently in the transportation future. It seems consummately short-sighted and foolish to cut funding for light rail. Governor Pawlenty refuses to spend the money we need now to solve problems for the future, and when it is too late, it will end up costing us even more.
Nancy Shih-Knodel
Maple Grove

You are following perfectly behind "W" and will go down as one of the worst performers to ever serve this state. Al Quie looks like Teddy Roosevelt next to you. 90% of the people I know have said they've never had the motivation to change the direction of this state and nation until people like you were allowed to bring your "Godly" act down on us.
Jim Hansen

I agree with others, this was a very bad decision by our governor... The Minnesota Council of Non profits just issued an action alert asking members to contact the Governor's office asking him to put the Central Corridor Light Rail Line back on the table... I just made my call. At least it was something that could do with my frustration.
Lynne Megan
St. Paul

Having an extensive light rail system would allow the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud, and points in-between to keep up with the rest of the country. Not having a mass transit system in place not only makes Minnesota an unattractive place for businesses, but it does nothing to address the traffic issues of roads such as I-94 and I-35. Our infrastructure is in need of updating and the addition of a light rail would put us at the forefront of American cities. We have no problem forking over public funds for stadiums, but we have a difficult time funding the transit route that can not only lead to the stadium, but lead folks from greater Minnesota to higher paying jobs; the priorities seem a little blurry.
Bryan Harmelink

I am a native of Minnesota and love the Twin Cities.  I lived there for 7 years and the biggest complaint I have ever had (besides the weather) was the fact there was no good and reliable public transportation.  The light rail that has been built thus far has been a huge success and it is a shame that Pawlenty is not seeing the big picture on how adding more light rail routes will positively impact Mpls/St. Paul as well as the state of MN.  Not only will it benefit on commutes for Midwesterners, it will also save people money, time and be much better for the environment.  We need to think ahead and not be left in the dust!  Let's be progressive people!!!  Being that I will most likely become a citizen of MN again and will live in the Twin Cities, I would love to have easy access to such efficient and environmentally friendly forms of transportation. DO IT!!!!
Megan Conner
San Francisco, CA

BECAUSE I am a progressive, I am very happy that funding for the Central Corridor Light Rail project was cut.  I am dancing in my living room, I am so happy.  Of course, I don't think that the governor cut it for quite the same reasons that I oppose it!  But nevertheless, I'm happy.  I am a big fan of rail transit overall--don't get me wrong--and I'm even a big fan of all other proposed Twin Cities light rail routes.  But the University Avenue route for the Central Corridor will devastate one of our last 2 places where LOWER INCOME people can be business OWNERS and build wealth.  We took enough wealth-building power away from low-income, middle-class people when we refused to let blacks invest in inner-suburban homes back in the 40s-70s.  I will NOT, as a progressive, stand for letting upper-middle-class people take one of the last 2 remaining chances left in this town (the other one being Lake Street) for minorities to build wealth.  Owning a low-rent business in a high-traffic area is the only way left, now that houses have already done their decades of appreciation faster than inflation, to outpace inflation and build wealth for one's family.  (And hey, not to mention, on a more selfish you really want to turn a bunch of our city's "currently low-income business owners" into "forever low-income 2-job-workers who can't get time to see their kids or bring their kids to the job site and thus raise them like they'd like to?"  Even as a selfish, rather than justice-based you really want to have to live near the NEIGHBORHOODS that that kind of poverty-making would produce?)
Katie Gumpertz

Who are we kidding?  The construction of the Central Corridor is in progress TODAY.  Today American Testing was sampling the soil under University Avenue for the purpose of light rail.  The dollars are still being spent.
Mary Leonard
St. Paul

The light-rail, which would have run on University Avenue was an exercise in poor planning and judgment.  There are some very simple reasons why.  It was far more of a folly than the line that runs to the Mall of America from downtown Minneapolis, which does nothing to alleviate traffic from the southern suburbs.   

What all of the proponents fail to consider is the effect it would have on traffic going between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, much of which is traffic that is not going from downtown Saint Paul to downtown Minneapolis or vice versa.  There are only two main arteries connecting the downtowns, I-94 and University Avenue.  If the light rail was to be built, it would essentially destroy University Avenue as a major artery forcing more traffic onto the freeway.   The light rail, as stated before would not be a viable alternative to driving because much of the traffic is not just between the two downtowns.  Much oft the traffic originates elsewhere, and is going to other destinations 

Because of this I was glad it was vetoed.  Extending the commuter rail line to Saint Paul makes more sense.  If there must be another light rail line, it should run where the bike trail is near the Twin Cities & Western Railroad, which runs through western Minneapolis, Saint Louis Park, Hopkins and Eden Prairie.   This is a real alternative to the automobile for folks who live in these areas
Edward Cohen
St. Paul

This is clearly a cynical move by Pawlenty to gain leverage in the budget negotiations.  He knows our state needs this project and he believes DFLers will give significant concessions on the budget bill to get it.  Look for major cuts to social services and health care.

First working class families have their transportation to work stripped from the bonding bill and then they get their health care gutted.  Fantastic.
David Greene

Way to go, Gov. Pawlenty.  Light rail has always been, and always will be, a bad idea and a tremendous waste of tax-payer money.  Light rail cannot go where the potential riders are to pick them (as with bus routes) but depends on the potential riders to come to it.  In a time of fiscal belt-tightening, or at any other time for that matter, light rail is a bad use of resources.
Paul Detlefsen
West St. Paul

Now is not the time to go backwards in time.  I am a rural resident but believe that light rail is important for many reasons one of which is the horrible traffic in the cities.  I hate to come down to the cities because of it. We need to stop using so much gas as of course it increases the cost.
Lee Gardner

I commute on the light rail every week day!  We need more light rail lines.  It is a great investment. It is shortsighted not to invest in this mode of transportation for the Twin Cities!
Rene Rosengren

Well said.  Unfortunately, Governor Pawlenty has not demonstrated at that he will lead, rather than react, so your call for leadership will probably not be heard.
Tim Brausen
St. Louis Park

It is so very important to fund light rail. The central corridor connecting both Minneapolis to St. Paul. Living in Rural MN the Rush Line corridor which will affect a large base of citizens will connect to the central corridor. The longer we wait for the central line to be built the longer we in urual MN have to wait. I feel betray. If it so important for the governer to tell the nation that he supports lowering carbon gasses then how can he justify his line veto. Live within your means yes but part of the governers job is also to use common sense.
Theresa Furman
North Branch

Because our government is "of the people, by the people and for the people," our elected leaders reflect our own intentions whether they be selfless or selfish.  This is why it always surprises me when people act dismayed be the actions or inactions of their elected officials. The Greatest Generation who as a whole carried the admirable quality of self-sacrifice gave us leaders like Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.  While the Baby Boomers the epotmy of self-gratification have have given us Clinton, Bush, and Pawlenty. Didn`t someone once say  the only thing we have to blame is blame ourselves.  In the end as the Great Generation vanishes into history the only people who will save this country are the under 30s. Let their voices be heard in November and beyond  or God help the United States.
David Luiken

We really need LR down University Avenue?  The MTC is just great.  We have the limited stop: 50S, the 16, the 21 & an express that goes down the freeway.  I have MS and can no longer drive so I chose to buy a house near bus line (half short block away).  I can't imagine LR can improve MTC.  I used to take the bus to MOA & enjoyed the ride.  Now I have to transfer on Lake & Chicago & the trip takes much longer.  I don't feel safe on LR & have witnessed some frightening behavior.  A bus driver would never tolerate it!!  I never thought LR was a good thing on University Avenue.
Dianne Nakajima
St. Paul

Pawlenty's veto of the $70 million for the Central Corridor funding show his short-sightedness. We cannot continue pretending that individual vehicles traveling back and forth between Duluth and the Twin Cities is sustainable. I have been commuting back and forth for over 4 years. As time has progressed there are more and more people doing the same. What  I would do for transportation that was reliable regardless of weather and traffic conditions!
Chris von Rabenau

We absolutely need lightrail to create a transportation infrustructure that will allow people to use cars less.  Having lived overseas for a great deal of my life, I realize the difference between great cities and those cities which simply exist is a transportation infrustructure.  We don't have it in the Twin Cities, and if we hope to be "livable" in in the next two decades, we need federal funds for a light rail system.
Carol Dines

Pawlenty has his head in the sand regarding what's happening with the world's diminishing oil supply. This light rail is NECESSARY and not optional. We need to be forward thinking and proactive rather than reactive in this situation.
Jean Kermeen

Unbelievable that Pawlenty vetoed light rail in MN. I can't believe I voted for this guy.  I am never voting for a Republican again, no matter how normal they seem. I always fall for it and I always regret it.
Danielle Arlowe

This governor is setting our state back in so many areas - education, transportation, health care, facilites.  Perhaps it is the time ro impeach before he single handedly derails our whole state.
Judith Ranheim

Penny-wise, pound-foolish. The veto contradicts his rhetoric on MN's green future.
Marvin Rothfusz

The governor is very shortsighted in his actions. Light rail is very important for the future of the state.
Terence Mulhern

Utterly outrageous that a leader would fail at this time of impending climate and energy crises to address the transportation issue of the state.  We are already at least a decade late.
Darlene Cofman

The Governor tends to think he is a dictator and the legislators his pawn. Political Partisanship is a weapon to him to be used to sting the Liberal masses. He is so short sighted. I can't think of a governor I have disliked more.
Matt Ziegler

I always thought that a Governor's role was to gain concensus within the legislative body.  Instead our Governor just says - do it my way or I'll veto it.  Again this is a very poor way to handle a budget situation.  To me it is vindictive against St. Paul and just plain stupid to turn down money for a rail project that especially in these times people want and need not to mention the jobs that it would create. We may have lost a battle but we haven't lost the war.
Pat Sundberg

It's time for a new Gov. Or an over ride by the House & Senate if the Republicans have enough guts to do what is right for the STATE or just goose step in line behind the Gov.
Robert D. Foss Jr.

If Minnesota does not provide $70 million in state funds by the end of the session, the Central Corridor project will be delayed at least a year.  Inflation will cause the price to increase by $35-$40 million by next year.  The project will not meet federal CEI (cost-effectiveness index) guidelines with this price increase, resulting in Minnesota losing federal funding for the whole project.
Renee Murray
Lake Elmo

What is he, stupid, vindictive, or both?  Is this mostly a power play?  I hope our legislators can accomplish an override.
Sue Rengstorf

Currently there is a ten passenger van service operating between Duluth and Minneapolis four times daily with stops at Hinckley, the Capital, Minneapolis Airport, and The Mall of America.  This service costs the taxpayers nothing.  The Republicans do very few things I agree with, but in this case I think the Governor did the right thing.  We already have an OmniMax theater and Fresh Water Aquarium  for which the taxpayers are footing the bill.
William Clark

My wife, Peggy Hanson, and I have often discussed moving to downtown St. Paul when we retire from her B&B and my spoon making business in Lanesboro.  We do not intend to have a car and the move to St. Paul has always been premised on access to good public transportation, including light rail, and Amtrak train service to Chicago and beyond.  Without light rail and the attendant community and amenities that will follow, such a move is simply out of the question.  I don't believe we are the only people in Minnesota making retirement plans 10-15 years out that include St. Paul.  Does Governor Pawlenty not realize the long-term consequences of his short-term political calculations.  His denial of personal and political retribution are not credible.
Frank Wright

I think this is horrible.   Not only does it derail a lot of other transit projects, but I think the worst part is that the governor went back on his word.  He signed off on the agreement in January when all the parties brought the Central Corridor costs down to the level he requested.  I expect my politicians to act like responsible adults, not three year old who have had to share their toys against their will.  I am appalled that he went against his prior agreement.
Carol Keyes-Ferrer
West St. Paul

I would much rather see some progress on light rail and a rail connection to Duluth than a hockey arena that will be shoe-horned in next to the one we already have.
Laurence Cahill

The Governor line item vetoed so many projects that the total amount spent on the bonding bill is below his spending target.  It makes one wonder if his political leveraging is starting to really hurt the people of Minnesota.  One can only hope that we will soon have a governor that is not adverse to transportation, especially rail, or that this governor is willing to renegotiate with the legislature, which he said he might.
Sophia Ginis

I am thoroughly outraged at this veto action by the Governor!  His lack of vision for both our Twin Cities and the State is an affront to his role as Governor.  Our State Constitution clearly indicates that his administration and the legislative functions are directly and clearly to address Transportation issues, and he has abrogated this responsibility  through out both of his terms in office.  His recalcitrant position to leave our transit needs unfunded has lost our state a tremendous number of Federal dollars towards transit and transportations dollars we so desperately need to be able to build systems for the up-coming decades, especially with an anticipated influx of nearly a million persons.  They will need both affordable housing and a well functioning transit system.  Are there no longer persons of vision at the helm????? I am outraged! Restore the $70 million immediately for the transit light rail corridor between Minneapolis and St. Paul!
Winnie White-Scherber

Never has this state had a governor who was so blatantly political in all his dealings.  And the good of the state be damned- far right ideology trumps all in his quest to please the national Republican party.  I am a former republican middle of the roader who couldn't take it anymore.  The damage they have done to this country may not be repairable.
Larry LaFontaine
Brooklyn Park

Who is Gov. Pawlenty looking after? Not the people of Minnesota. With a vindictive stripe so mean it stinks, he uses the line item veto in a way that makes me question the value of the practice. It would have been better if he vetoed the whole thing.
David Evans

Light rail is absolutely necessary and if it isn't done now, it will be done later at greater cost and without the federal money that Governor Pawlenty so easily threw away.  He seems to be acting like a 12 year old who didn't get his way on transportation when his veto was overruled, and now he is throwing a tantrum and taking money away from other transportation needs.
Janet Stottlemyer
Arden Hills

A terrible, short sighted decision.
Mark Sutherland
St. Paul

This governor is clearly not the leader we need to take Minnesota into the future.  We need someone who understands and can envision a state / world that is less dependent on fossil fuels and knows what it takes to protect the environment for future generations to come.  I am clearly tired of this governor's beligerance and look forward to a change in leadership.
Debra Wagner

I think it is good as the funding was passed through slight of hand. I believe light rail may be a partial good solution for our transportation woes, but it must be funded openly and honestly.
Ken McDonnell
North Branch

After years of surveys showing that the people of Minnesota support investment in public transportation over investment in private stadium construction, our Governor, once again, has thwarted the will of the people.  Sheer arrogance!
Marjie Carroll
St. Paul

The Central Corridor is absolutely critical to the future of our cities--we must develop alternative means of traveling around our town. So much work has gone into developing a proposal that meets the various demands of so many different and conflicting mandates. I am incredulous--I simply can not fathom the arrogance of the Governor in his veto of this important initiative.
Angeline Barretta Herman
St. Paul

Many on both side of the political aisle agree it is time for the Twin Cities to connect through light rail.  If Tim Pawlenty is looking for a Vice Presidential nod from John Mccain he certainly needs to show how he can reach across the political aisle and get things done.  His latest move simply shows petty vindictiveness.  This doesn't fit in with the "above petty partisan politics" image that John Mccain is trying to present.  If this truly is Mccain's image why would he want to dilute this image with a VP candidate who has recently taken such petty partisan shots.
Paul Seeba
St. Paul

I hope this central core railway stays dead.  My family & I use buses on freeways every weekday. 'cus it's fast, cheap, and not disruptive. This streetcar scheme is none of the above.  It will disrupt N/S traffic crossing University Av, will provide slower service Mpls. to St Paul than will a freeway bus, and will diminish the bus service now available on University Av. 

While this project will increase local land prices, why must we spend tax dollars to further over-inflate toda's land price bubble?
Philip Martin

I have lived in MN since 1974 and every administration has paid lip service to mass transit. Some have even set up committees to "study the problem."   The governor says he wants us to "live within our means." Penny pinching is what has gotten us to the point of falling bridges, crowded freeways and an inadequate mass transit system. Prices are not going to go down. It will not get any cheaper if we wait to fix a bridge or add on to the light rail. This line of thinking has gotten us a crumbling infrastructure, continued and ever increasing dependence on foreign oil and bridges that fall during rush hour traffic. After yesterday's veto, I absolutely believe Gov. Pawlenty is trying to show the national Republicans that he is vice-presidential material at the expense of the people of this state. I feel let down, lied to and manipulated. Don`t trust that boyish smile!
Sheila E. Martin

It is time for the governor to stop playing politics with the future of Minnesota. I think we must override his veto.
Khalil Khelah
Eden Prairie

I feel that the DFL Leadership failed to lead their members and need to take some blame.  They knew the Governor would not support a Bonding Bill as high $925 million so why risk good projects like the Central Line to the line item veto pen of the Governor?  I have to question Senator Pogemiller and Senator Metzen along with Speaker Kelliher and House Majority Leader Sertich as to what their plan was?  I think all of us on the outside realized that the Governor would make cuts and it was not a surprise that he took a shot at St. Paul.  Perhaps there is a long term plan, but it seems to me to be rather short-sighted and solely political on both the Legislature and Governor's side.
Mike Gamache

I believe the governor is like every other career politician.  He thinks the roads are fine the president is great and good times are still here as long as a republican media exists.  I drive the wrecked roads and believe something needs to be done.  considering a nasty letter to the editor but the right wing media stops any opinion against their own.  I am excited Jesse Ventura still has conviction because at least we can say our governor at one time was trying to improve the state.  please let's stop the gambling craze, the spending spree on credit.  Maybe if we don't have the cash we shouldn't buy it.
Arlen Antonses
East Bethel

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