The embattled, but currently thriving Central Corridor light rail project is proceeding apace toward construction of the 11-mile line between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A singular victory for proponents of adding stations at the half-mile marks along University Ave. in St. Paul (Western, Victoria and Hamline avenues) came recently when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transportation Administration head Peter Rogoff revised a long-standing Bush policy to base federal funding on a convoluted formula called the cost effectiveness index (CEI), opening the door to meeting the needs and demands of communities along the corridor to make it easier for residents to use the line while not losing the speed and convenience of the rail itself.
And yet, with the historical fragmentation of St. Paul’s black community in the mid-1960’s by the ditch known as I-94 burrowing its way through the center of the once-robust Rondo neighborhood still burning, a group calling itself the African-American Rondo Community (including the NAACP, the Community Stabilization Project, and Pilgrim Baptist Church) has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the planning of the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project and alleging that ”government planning agencies have neglected to adequately consider both the impacts of the CCLRT on area businesses and residents. The lawsuit also alleges that the responsible agencies have failed to adequately consider mitigating the impacts of the project.”
Moreover, the Asian Economic Development Association, acting as Concerned Asian Business Owners, has lodged a civil rights complaint against the FTA alleging discrimination based on the disruption to their business and the loss of critical retail parking they contend the line will create. They are joined in their resistance to these losses by the University Avenue Business Association Preliminary construction is under way in downtown St. Paul as utility lines are dug up and moved off to the side to make clear the route of the rails. Actual construction is scheduled to get underway this summer.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN query some of the principals in these disparate developments to update the status of this protracted project as it moves toward a 2014 start-up date. GUESTS: • ANNE WHITE – President, District Councils Collaborative of St. Paul and Minneapolis • JACK McCANN – President, University Avenue Business Association • THOMAS DEVINCKE – Attorney representing the African-American Rondo Community • PETE VANG – President, Asian Economic Development Association