Sabo calls on city leaders to vote no on Southwest LRT

Former Congressman Martin Sabo speaks against the Southwest LRT project at a press conference Thursday at City Hall. Credit: Photo by Sarah McKenzie

Former Congressman Martin Sabo urged Minneapolis leaders to reject the proposed plan for the embattled Southwest Light Rail Transit project at a news conference at City Hall earlier today.

The Minneapolis City Council has yet to schedule a vote on authorizing municipal consent for the proposed $1.7 billion light-rail line that would link Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. Council Members and Mayor Betsy Hodges have raised concerns about the impact of the project on the Chain of Lakes and objected to co-location of light rail and freight trains.

“It is a big, expensive project — $1.7 billion — of which $850 million is local taxpayer money. For that kind of big money, we should expect big results. Instead, we would only get small results,” Sabo said, a downtown resident who served in Congress for 28 years representing the state’s Fifth District.

Supporters of the project, however, say it will link people to jobs and drive more development and job growth along the line. 

Sabo’s daughter Julie Sabo, a former DFL state lawmaker, has also been an outspoken critic of SW LRT. Her family lives near the proposed route and was under the impression that freight trains would be rerouted to make way for the project when they purchased their home, Sabo said.

At this morning’s press conference Sabo also suggested the $50 million rehab planned for Nicollet Mall would have a bigger economic impact on the city than the SW LRT line.

The proposed 15.8-mile line includes plans for two shallow tunnels in the city’s Kenilworth Corridor, which has sparked fierce opposition from residents in the area. Several attended Sabo’s press conference and applauded his remarks.

“To the Minneapolis mayor and City Council I say: Our lakes, parks and trails are our gems,” Sabo said. “Don’t despoil them with a poorly planned LRT.”

He said new trains in the Kenilworth Corridor will “fundamentally change the nature of the trails.”

“There will be a lot less trees and much more concrete,” he added. 

Kate Brickman, communications director for Mayor Betsy Hodges, declined to comment on a timeline for a vote at City Hall. A retired federal judge is overseeing talks between Minneapolis leaders and the Metropolitan Council on the project.

“We are respecting the confidentiality of the mediation process,” Brickman said.