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Red Rock, Gateway funding on the table

Officials from five metro counties are discussing this week how to divvy up sales and motor vehicle tax revenue among a number of transit projects, including two that would service south Washington County.

The Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), which includes Washington, Dakota, Ramsey, Hennepin and Anoka county elected officials, is expected to decide next month how much funding the Gateway Corridor and Red Rock projects will receive this year and beyond.

CTIB receives and distributes collected taxes by awarding annual grants for the development, construction and operation of transitways serving the five-county area.

At a June 18 meeting, CTIB is expected to discuss funding scenarios, including covering 30 percent of the cost for Gateway Corridor and Red Rock, or funding up to 80 percent of the projects.

Washington County transportation coordinator Andy Gitzlaff said the 30 percent contribution has been the assumption, but a new funding strategy to reduce the federal share and increase CTIB’s contribution is being kicked around.

The more CTIB buys into the projects, the more competitive transit projects are at the federal level.

“The area that will be discussed is potentially how much more would the CTIB board be willing to contribute to help accelerate (the projects),” Gitzlaff said.

Policymakers will look at the big transit picture when deciding which project would receive what money, as there are a number of other Twin Cities projects also seeking funding.

The Southwest light rail transit (LRT), Bottineau LRT, Orange Line bus rapid transit (BRT) and Robert Street accelerated BRT are all competing for roughly $100 million in sales tax to be distributed by CTIB.

Washington County officials say the board will have to justify increasing contributions to the 80 percent level.

“We need to strive for regional equity,” Commissioner Lisa Weik said, “at least some regional balance.”

The entire system is already benefiting from the Green Line, the LRT route between Minneapolis and St. Paul that opened on Saturday, Weik said, and Washington County projects will only help address the growth and development in the county and entire metro area.

Another funding source is expected to come from the Metropolitan Council, which received $15 million in state bonding money this year.

The Metropolitan Council will work with CTIB to figure out how to distribute the money across all transit projects.

Gateway Corridor officials are studying two options, a $400 million BRT option and a $900 million LRT alternative. Red Rock Corridor’s preferred mode is BRT along Highway 61 from St. Paul to Hastings with a $50 million price tag.