The City Council took an initial step Tuesday toward building a test lab for the controversial transit technology Personal Rapid Transit.
Council members voted 5-to-1 to submit an application seeking nearly $25 million in federal funding for PRT, which uses small, pod-like vehicles on guideways to shuttle passengers to their destinations. Winona will not put local tax dollars toward the project, and city officials have said they won't seek state funding.
City leaders have lauded the potential economic benefits of the Winona Personal Rapid Transit Lab and Partnership Center, which would include a 1.3-mile elevated guideway. The grant would also pay to build a testing laboratory on the main campus of Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical in Winona and fund it for four years.
Typical PRTista shenanigans:
While there was little discussion of PRT during the meeting, the vote came after council members examined the system during a pre-council informational session that lasted more than one hour.
"This is not a transportation mode for Winona ever," council member Gerry Krage said. "Right now, we're looking at $24 million for a showroom to bring people here."
One voice of reason:
Council member Deb Salyards spoke dubiously of the project, asking why the technology had not been implemented anywhere else and questioning if any government money should go toward such a project.
"I still wonder, why?," she said. "If this is the wave of the future, a private individual should develop this."
Salyards cast the lone vote against submitting the application.
What happens next?
After the council's approval, city staff must now prepare and submit the funding application by Feb. 8. Winona will learn if it landed the award this summer, and if the money is awarded, construction would have to begin within 18 months.