Letter to the editor: On Osmek’s response to Southwest Light Rail

To The Editor:
State Senator David Osmek’s recent attacks on the Southwest Light Rail Transit project and a reported “crude” email about it, sent from his government email server in February to a St. Louis Park resident, has perked my curiosity.

I live in Eden Prairie but have friends and family who are represented by Sen. Osmek. I have been questioning and participating in the planning process of Southwest Light Rail for nearly 16 years and find some of Sen. Osmek’s comments misleading and offensive.

For starters, Sen. Osmek has told a StarTribune reporter that Southwest Light Rail is a costly “liberal wet dream” and among his quiver of anti light rail bills has been one for a resolution to tell Washington to shift its matching grant of $928.8 million for the project to roads and bridges. But the legislature is well aware that the federal match is restricted for transit; his bill has wasted time.

The senator has also claimed that because the Met Council is not elected, projects like SWLRT are jammed down our collective throat with little local input. That is false.

For nearly a decade and a half, the 15-mile SWLRT project from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie has embraced input from local individuals and groups; city and Hennepin County elected and planning officials; Chambers of Commerce and businesses. United Health Group, for example, has donated land for one of the Eden Prairie stations. Sen. Osmek works for a division of United Health Group, but at the capitol yelps like a coyote against a project that has been strongly supported by and will serve his own employer and his southwest suburban neighbors.

Southwest Light Rail has already stimulated $515 million in development along its corridor. Surveys show that millenials, students and senior citizens want light rail. Some studies find that over the long haul, when all construction and operational costs are considered, light rail can be less expensive than bus transit. Regular folks can still have a voice in fine tuning project plans by contacting Southwest Light Rail.

Jeff Strate
Eden Prairie
Strate is an Eden Prairie City Councilmember and Southwest Light Rail Project’s Community Advisory Committee member.