Heading into the 2017 legislative session in Minnesota, Jonathan Weinhagen knew light rail transit would be a contentious issue.
Over the previous two years, the CEO of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce had watched as several deals to fund transportation projects in Minnesota blew up, largely over whether or not light rail funding should be included. Then, during the 2016 election, Republican legislators who pushed back on light rail took control of both the state House and the Senate.
But he was still surprised when he saw Republicans’ first bills to fund transportation projects this year. Not only did GOP legislators continue a push against funding light rail projects, they also put no new money into existing bus lines, which state officials said would lead to cutbacks. “That’s what really struck me,” Weinhagen said. “This is no longer a discussion about debating the merits of light rail. This is an attack on our existing bus services, which I thought we all universally agreed are a good, flexible and cost effective way to move a lot of people around to a lot of jobs.”