Switch Light Rail Funding to Highways? Great Idea!

A group of Minnesota legislators have introduced a resolution that calls on the federal Department of Transportation to divert $929 million in federal funding for light rail transit to pay for roads and bridges. The resolution, if passed, will not be legally binding, but it would express the will of Minnesota’s legislature that any federal tax dollars should pay for road and bridge construction, not light rail.

I don’t know whether the resolution will be effective, but the concept is right. The legislature has refused to fund the Southwest Light Rail Transit line, so the Met Council, a rogue agency, has tried to drive the project without the state’s involvement. The real issue here is that light rail transit is an obsolete technology. It is crazy for Minnesota to contemplate spending billions of dollars on light rail lines that very few people use, and that inevitably require ongoing subsidies as well as huge maintenance costs. In an age that is about to welcome the self-driving vehicle, fixed-rail transit is a dinosaur.

Let’s hope the Department of Transportation listens to Minnesota’s legislature and kills funding for SWLRT. It will be vastly more effective to spend the same dollars to add lanes and eliminate bottlenecks on Minnesota’s highways.