St. Paul council member goes public with Central Corridor concerns

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

A St. Paul City Council member is calling on the Metropolitan Council to make changes to the light rail line that is expected to run through the city's central corridor.

Ward 1 Council Member Melvin Carter says he supports light rail transit. But he believes the Met Council should put more effort into addressing the concerns of people who live along University Ave., which is the route of the proposed Central Corridor light rail line.

Earlier this week, Carter sent a letter to the Met Council saying the agency needs to maintain local bus service along University Ave., and add at least another stop on the new light rail route.

"The strategy that I have chosen, which was to voice any of the concerns that I may have within the community input channels and within the constraints provided by the Met Council -- that strategy really hasn't been effective at producing some real solutions to a very reasonable set of concerns," Carter said.

In the letter, Carter urged Met Council Chairman Peter Bell to maintain bus service along University Ave. He also said the stations along the line are too far apart to provide good local service to his constituents, and that at least one more station should be built.

"My expectation for a billion-dollar transit project is that it does improve transit for people, especially for people who can see it from their front porch," Carter said.

Central Corridor spokeswoman Laura Baenen said Bell plans to meet with Carter in the coming weeks, but a date has not been set yet.

Baenen said while the bus service along University Ave. will be reduced in frequency, it's going to be replaced by the light rail line, which will continue to provide transportation options along the corroder.

"It would be redundant to keep it at its current level and add light rail," she said. "What's often getting lost in this discussion is that while the 16A [bus line] will be reduced in frequency, Metro Transit will be adding some north-south bus routes to increase access in this area."

Carter also said his constituents want the kind of concessions won by the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio.

In April, the Metropolitan Council and MPR agreed on ways to mitigate the effect that noise and vibration will have on the broadcast studios.

The Council also agreed to move a light rail station that's near the U of M campus, to better serve both the university and surrounding communities.

But Baenen said these agreements represent only some of the dozens of changes made to the project to satisfy a number of concerns along the line.

"It is not an accurate statement to say that folks in the middle of the corridor have gotten nothing," Baenen said. "It's also not true that the university has gotten everything it wants, or that downtown St. Paul has gotten everything that it wants. There has had to be a lot of compromises made all up and down with the project partners."

If the Central Corridor gets final approval from the federal government, the Met Council hopes to begin construction in 2010, with completion in 2014.

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