More than 150 community members from Saint Paul, Minneapolis and the metro area gathered at the City of Saint Paul’s Central Corridor Resource Center March 7th and 8th for a Community Summit to exchange ideas on the Central Corridor light rail line and to seek solutions to community concerns that have not yet been resolved in planning for the billion dollar Central Corridor infrastructure project.
Most of the daylong Saturday session was spent in breakout sessions focused on seven issues – Transportation Equity, Equitable Development and Housing, Neighborhood Livability, Workforce and Jobs, Environment and Sustainability, Small Business Mitigation, and Community as Stakeholders. In the Sunday follow-up session, the group identified common themes from the Summit and began laying the groundwork for a comprehensive Community Vision and action agenda, to be fleshed out over the next two months, with additional input from the community.
One central theme that emerged from the Summit was that the community views the Central Corridor project, not just as a transportation project, but as a catalyst for economic development. This means the main measure of success in planning and building the light rail line, from the community perspective, is whether it strengthens and enhances neighborhoods and businesses along the route.
Equity is seen as a key value. There was broad agreement on the need to:
• Ensure that the line benefits, and provides a net gain in transit access for all neighborhoods, with special attention to the needs of ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged populations;
• Build the three missing stations at Western, Victoria and Hamline before the line opens in 2014;
• Protect the diversity of the corridor by providing additional resources to ensure that small businesses can survive and thrive and that current residents can remain in their homes;
• Set aggressive requirements — not just goals — for hiring of local workers from underrepresented populations, and undertake increased outreach and training.
Other top priorities for community members include:
• Ensuring safe, easy pedestrian access to LRT stations and across the light rail line;
• Improving and expanding bus service and bicycle lanes to connect to the light rail;
• Replacing lost on-street parking, and
• Making streetscape improvements a required element – not an optional “betterment” – in building the LRT; wider sidewalks, trees, boulevards and benches must be included to help ensure the success of local businesses, and to encourage pedestrians to stroll, shop and linger along the light rail line.
If there was one element that ran through all the discussions, it was the need to recognize the community as a stakeholder and partner in planning for the Central Corridor. Transparency and early consultation with community representatives is needed in all phases of design, including preparing RFPs and planning construction schedules and mitigation, to ensure that the benefits of the project outweigh the negative impacts for the community.
Because of the richness and depth of discussion at the Community Summit, the many ideas and proposals generated, and the need to include additional community voices in the conversation, it was agreed that it would be premature to attempt to draft a Community Statement by the end of the weekend meetings. Instead, additional input will be sought from the broader community over the next month, with the intent of bringing forward a united community vision and proposed solutions to unresolved issues by April 15th.
The Summit results will also form the basis for discussions among governmental entities, community members, businesses and organizations to coordinate efforts and hold everyone accountable for ensuring that the Central Corridor line benefits and enhances all the neighborhoods and businesses along the line.
For more information contact:
District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis