"Transit holds the key to a successful and prosperous region," said Minnesota's Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh, while delivering her first State of the Region speech. Several hundred people attended the State of the Region event at Target Field in Minneapolis, where Haigh highlighted the role of transit in economic development and job creation.
“Our vision is to work together to continue to build a 21st century regional transit system with expanding regional services that connect people to and from work, school and home and to work together to strategically support economic development along transitways that will produce robust local economies and grow jobs,” Haigh told the crowd.
Haigh also focused on the need for the public and private sectors to work together to support transit and transit funding. She praised business leaders, foundations, CTIB members, local elected officials, legislators and members of Congress who have worked together with a common purpose and a shared vision of a globally competitive, 21st century region.
“With a spirit of partnership, we can achieve and surpass the aspirations we share for this region,” Haigh said.
Haigh credited the governor for his support of transit, including the 11-mile Central Corridor Light-Rail project scheduled to begin service in 2014. The project will link the two central cities, University of Minnesota, State Capitol, Midway area and downtown St. Paul.
“Together, we can connect the dots between mobility, economic development, jobs, workforce, housing and quality of life,” said Haigh. “This is about connecting development with jobs, jobs with people and people with their homes, communities and local businesses.”
Haigh said the Council has a full plate in 2012, with a work plan that includes launching a collaborative effort to develop the 2040 Regional Development Framework, a long-range plan for delivering innovative, efficient services and infrastructure in a cost-effective and collaborative manner.
During Haigh’s first year as Council Chair, the Metropolitan Council:
• Secured a Full Funding Grant Agreement for Central Corridor Light-Rail, committing the federal government to paying half the cost of the $957 million project.
• Secured federal government approval to enter Preliminary Engineering on Southwest Corridor Light-Rail. The project is just one of 12 projects nationwide to achieve PE status.
• Achieved Metro Transit ridership of nearly 81 million rides in 2011, marking the second time in 30 years that ridership has exceeded 80 million.
• Avoided an across-the-board transit fare increase, despite a state general fund reduction of 40 percent for the biennium.