Central Corridor stop concerns raised


Some St. Paul residents, business leaders and city officials do not believe there are enough stops in the Capital City on the proposed Central Corridor light rail line.

Designed to connect downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis, heavy construction on the 11-mile line is scheduled to begin next year, with service to begin in 2014.

Much of the line would operate along University Avenue, but those who live and/or work in the area urged the House Transportation and Transit Policy and Oversight Division to support HF2358/SF2117. No action was taken. (Watch Part I, Part II)

Sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), the bill seeks $12 million to add stations at Victoria Street and Western and Hamline avenues. “These stops are essential to the vitality of the line,” said Rep. Paul Rosenthal (DFL-Edina).

Fifteen stations are planned for the line, but there is just one proposed stop (Lexington Parkway) between Snelling Avenue and Dale Street, an approximately 2-mile stretch.

Proponents said that greatly limits access in the low-income, ethnically diverse neighborhoods, where many residents rely on public transportation for everything from getting to work to going to the grocery store. Anne White, chair of the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, said there is “½-mile-or-less spacing along most of the rest of the line.”

St. Paul City Councilman Melvin Carter said the city has agreed to pay for one station at a cost of about $5 million. He said research has indicated resident would be willing to walk up to ½ mile to use the train.

Adding more stations could boost the $941 million project above a cost-effectiveness guideline used to procure federal money. Federal dollars are funding half the project.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), the division chairman, said he expects hearings on the bills when the Legislature reconvenes Feb. 4, 2010.

Other topics addressed at the meeting include:
• Metropolitan Council President Peter Bell said the council is close to resolving issues with the University of Minnesota regarding the corridor’s path through the university’s Minneapolis campus;
• the Northstar Commuter Rail line is scheduled to begin operation Nov. 16, with a stakeholder event and grand opening scheduled for the prior weekend; and
• the perceived inadequacy of the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, which, according to its Web site, “ensures that small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals have equal opportunity to participate on contracts and project work administered by Mn/DOT.” Critics say goal numbers have not been met, but Bernie Arseneau, director of MnDOT’s Policy, Safety and Strategic Initiatives Division, said the department is “in compliance with federal law, but we can do better.”