The Central Corridor light rail project has taken both a step toward full funding and lost legal ground. In the last week of January, a federal judge ruled that the project’s ‘Final Environmental Impact Statement’ (FEIS) did not adequately assess the potential loss in business revenue during construction. One week later, the ‘full funding grant agreement’ was sent to the U.S. Congress, marking the final step to federal funding the project relies upon.
The lawsuit in question was brought against the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Met Council by the St. Paul NAACP and several businesses on the eastern end of University Avenue, in and around the Rondo neighborhood. The Rondo neighborhood was torn apart in the past by I-94’s construction, and some residents and businesses fear economic displacement from this transportation project.
We wrote about the housing issue in the past, detailing the inherent conflict of much-needed transit bringing higher property values and taxes, resulting in displacement for many low-income owners and renters. The concern of the businesses lies primarily in the construction of the Central Corridor, which will not be completed until 2014. There is a $1.5 million business compensation fund, but businesses are requesting a larger fund from the project’s budget, as Finance & Commerce reports. The judge has ruled that additional Environmental Impact Statements be made, but he stopped short of halting the project altogether.
Meanwhile, the Federal Transit Administration has forwarded the project’s funding agreement to Congress. It does not have to be explicitly approved by Congress, but simply has to survive the 60-day ‘courtesy review’, as the Star Tribune reports. Though there are some concerns about anti-transit conservatives, this project has a great deal of merit, and is considered a priority for the FTA. A spokesman from the Met Council states that they are at the “99.9% confidence level” for funding, as MPR reports.
No project of this magnitude is planned and constructed without error, but this project will ultimately serve a public good by spurring economic development and enabling increased mobility around the Twin Cities. The Central Corridor will literally move Minnesotans forward.
Photo credit: Dawn Easterday, creative commons