Residents voice concerns over LRT planningby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Community residents say the Met Council is unfairly putting the University of Minnesota before them when it comes to the Central Corridor light rail project.
Dozens of people attended a question and answer session on the $909 million project to link the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
At the forum in St. Paul Wednesday night, Met Council Chair Peter Bell said mitigation costs near the University are estimated at around $27 million, out of the $40 million allocated for such costs.
That includes paying for creating a transit mall along Washington Avenue and new signs, and making East River Road more accessible to traffic.
Peter Latuff, who owns Latuff Brothers Auto Body on University, said the Met Council still doesn't have an adequate plan for traffic, parking, buses and snow removal. He said he wants to see the agency do more to prevent disruption.
"I'd like to see more things happen. It's going to be at least a 60 percent reduction in sales for any business, I truly believe, during the construction. Lord knows what's going to happen during the construction," Latuff said.
Latuff said he needs to preserve parking for his employees and customers.
Activist Veronica Burt said the council needs to do more to make sure the light rail line doesn't hurt small businesses and neighborhoods.
"Mr. Bell frames it, 'These are mitigations we have been considering all along.' But it's interesting that they haven't been considering all along mitigations for our community. For something that people don't even want in this neighborhood that is just insult to injury," Burt said.
Her group is considering suing the Met Council for not doing an adequate environmental impact study.
Bell said the council is committed to easing the impact to neighborhoods.
"I am convinced it will be overwhelmingly positive for both the businesses and the residents along University Avenue," Bell said. "But it will cause some dislocation, and I think change is always scary for people, and they want to know what type of dislocation and how can we minimize the impact or protect them from it."
The Met Council will hold another community advisory committee meeting Thursday night in St. Paul.