Officials disagree over environmental impact of light rail project

Federal officials do not agree that economic hardships caused by the Central Corridor light rail project will outweigh benefits for some St. Paul neighborhoods.

That's the implication of a decision this week by the Federal Transit Administration. The FTA Wednesday gave its approval to the project's final environmental impact statement.

Metropolitan Council chairman Peter Bell said the decision is based on the FTA's view that he light rail project's benefits to low income and minority residents along University avenue will outweigh problems.

"They have legitimate concerns regarding parking and street amenities," Bell said. "Perhaps most importantly at one of the infill stations being constructed in short order; so I take those concerns very seriously and am in ongoing dialogue with them."

Bell said the FTA decision also approves of the progress the Met Council is making in negotiations with the University of Minnesota over vibration worries. Bell said the FTA approval sets the stage for federal permission in October for the project to enter final design with construction scheduled for late summer next year.

Central Corridor trains could be running on the eleven mile route from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis by 2014.

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