DENVER -- After taking a ''very smooth, very relaxing'' ride on Denver's light rail train, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said Thursday he is certain the Twin Cities should have a similar system, setting up a battle with Denver for federal funding.
Denver mass-transit Manager Cal Marsella acknowledged that both cities are asking for the same federal funds. But both sides insisted Thursday they aren't trying to snatch the other's share.
''There's no stealing of money,'' Ventura said. ''We're just trying to catch up with you.''
Then he added, ''But we might steal a Bronco or two.''
Ventura and a delegation of government officials from Minnesota arrived Thursday for a two-day visit, including a tour of existing and planned light-rail lines and meetings with officials of suburbs served by the system.
''It was very quiet, it was smooth, it was delightful to ride on,'' Ventura said after a test ride on Denver's $116.5-million, 5.3-mile Central Corridor line downtown.
Ventura supports Minneapolis' request for $274 million in federal funds to build a light-rail route from downtown to the Mall of America via the airport.
Denver, which will open a second light-rail line in July, wants $524 million in federal money for a third line, a 19-mile route along Interstate 25 in the fast-growing southeast corner of the metro area.
The Twin Cities project faces opposition from Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature. Ventura accused them of political posturing and questioned their courage.
On Friday, House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty said Republican leaders will try to put the project to a statewide vote in November. Through a constitutional amendment prohibiting the designated light rail line or an unbinding referendum, they want to take the temperature of voters.
Pawlenty, R-Eagan, anticipates that a vote would prove Minnesotans are uneasy with the project. Besides, they said Ventura has used similar logic of putting issues to voters to encourage lawmakers to put his unicameral proposal on the ballot.
''We know it's hard for the governor to admit when he's wrong,'' Pawlenty said.
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