U of M approves Central Corridor route

University Ave in the future?
An artist's view of the University Avenue corridor with a light-rail line.
Courtesy of Urban Strategies Inc.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents has approved a key agreement on the Central Corridor light rail project.

The memorandum ensures that the project will include $27 million in street and traffic improvements near the university campus.

The project includes $11 million for a transit and pedestrian mall on Washington Ave. The costs will be included in the budget submitted to the federal government.

University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks says the upgrades around the site of the Central Corridor light rail are critical to the future of the university.

"To me, it's all about making sure the university can fulfill its mission, do its work and ensure that the tens of thousands of people who need to get here every day can get here efficiently, and engage in the central services of the University of Minnesota," said Bruininks.

Some community activists say the university is unfairly monopolizing mitigation funds. They are calling on the state to set aside funding to make traffic and street improvements on the St. Paul side of the line.

Nathaniel Khaliq, president of the the St. Paul NAACP, says the plan should also include three additional station stops and restoration of the bus route along University Ave.

"There are so many things that they are denying us," said Khaliq. "Simple things, like the service we have on the 16 bus that is one of the most highly used buses in the Twin Cities, how that service is going to be cut back and they are really not putting anything on the table."

Khaliq says the state should also set up a fund to help small businesses survive construction and development.

The Regents voted 11-1 in favor of moving forward. Regent Venora Hung voted against the memorandum. She says the plan isn't specific enough about where funding for the mitigation will come from.

The Met Council, Hennepin County and the county's rail authority have also signed the agreement. The Minneapolis City Council takes it up Friday.

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