Bill Proposed to Halt Light Rail Construction

Four suburban representatives introduced a bill last week that seeks to suspend construction on the Central Corridor light-rail line until the Met Council's supplemental environmental impact statement is completed and approved.

As work moves forward on the Central Corridor light-rail transit line, a group of suburban lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would suspend construction on the $957 million project.

The bill was authored by the following state representatives: Mark Buesgens (Jordan), Bob Barrett (Shafer), Linda Runbeck (Circle Pines), and Bob Gunther (Fairmont). It seeks to halt construction on the project until the Metropolitan Council's new environmental impact statement (EIS) is completed and approved.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that planning for the Central Corridor light-rail line was “deficient in its consideration of lost business revenue as an adverse impact of the construction”-but he said construction would continue while a new EIS is being completed.

Frank's ruling was in response to a lawsuit that was filed in January 2010 by a group of organizations, businesses, and residents-including the St. Paul branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)-which claimed the effects of the light-rail line on local businesses were not properly analyzed.

The Met Council said last week that it will hold two public hearings later this month to get feedback on its supplemental EIS, which estimates that the average revenue loss for small businesses would be 0 to 2.5 percent during construction of the line, which wraps up in 2014.

In other news, a study was released over the weekend that echoed many of the complaints listed in the January 2010 lawsuit, including that many residents living near the Central Corridor light-rail line are already experiencing high housing costs and those could become even higher once the trains start running on the new line.

The study, called Healthy Corridor for All, was commissioned by several organizations, including Isaiah-a faith-based organization of 90 member congregations-TakeAction Minnesota, and PolicyLink.

According to the study, nearly half-about 45 percent-of households near the Central Corridor line pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, up from 33 percent of households in 2000.

The study said that number is likely to go up with the completion of the new light-rail line because home prices will rise due to “the increased development potential” from rezoning in the area.

“Given the high housing burden currently documented for Central Corridor residents, increases in housing costs may result in displacement,” the study stated.

The report also said that small- and minority-owned businesses that currently reside along University Avenue may be pressured to relocate because of impending redevelopment-which will result in a loss of parking-and the increase of commercial rent.

Click here to see the full results of the study.