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Board threatens to take funding from Forest Lake bus services

During the April 14 Washington County Board meeting, commissioners discussed the possibility of cutting off funding for the Forest Lake commuter bus services the county is paying for via its share of a five-county transit sales tax.

Late last year, the county board voted to allocated a portion of its County Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) transit sale tax funds to continuation of commuter bus routes out of Forest Lake into Minneapolis.

The bus routes were originally established and paid for via federal funding after the collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis in August of 2007, but the funds ran out last year upon completion of the bridge.

The county board voted to partially fund continuation of the route through 2009 with the condition that the city of Forest Lake would join the metropolitan transit taxing district, which would then allow Metro Transit to operate the service.

The county is using about $233,000 of its CTIB funding to pay for the 2009 bus service from Forest Lake to Minneapolis.

Earlier this month, Forest Lake city officials began to hedge on whether to vote to enter the transit taxing district. They delayed an April 8 vote until April 27.

County commissioners were clear at their April 14 meeting that if the Forest Lake does not enter the transit taxing district, the county will withdraw its funding for the bus service to Minneapolis.

"There will be consequences if they choose not to enter the transit taxing district," said commissioner Gary Kriesel. "They have to be participating; we are not just going to give them a free ride."