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Survey says: Minnesotans favor commuter-rail project

Although Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) probably didn’t enter a pie or livestock at the recently held Minnesota State Fair, its planned commuter rail system made a good showing in an unscientific survey conducted by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Out of 7,201 fairgoers polled, 64 percent (4,615) believe the state should invest in commuter-rail systems (different from local or light-rail transit), such as the Northstar Corridor. About 25 percent (1,814) were opposed; 10 percent (713), undecided.

"At the State Fair, you hear the voices of real Minnesotans — which makes these results particularly important," said Paul McCarron, NCDA chair, in a prepared statement.

Respondents were more evenly divided on whether to increase the state’s gas tax to fund road and transit projects, voting 54 percent (3,903) in favor of an increase compared with 40 percent (2,880) opposed.

However, an even larger portion of those polled (56 percent, or 4,020 people) do not want the state to tap its tobacco endowment fund to help balance the state budget when projecting a deficit. Thirty-five percent (2,529) were in favor of using the fund, and 8 percent (597), undecided.

"These survey results are meaningful because they were sponsored by the Minnesota House, which rejected funding for Northstar commuter rail during this pass session," said McCarron. "Public opinion continues to demonstrate that people support Nothstar commuter rail, will use it and believe the state of Minnesota has a role in helping fund this needed transportation improvement."

NCDA is asking the state legislature to approve 40 percent of the project’s construction cost, or $123 million. That, combined with the 10 percent local governments along the route have committed to the project, comprise the 50 percent match needed to qualify for federal funds.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/16/2002