Central corridor: The major players

Peter Bell
Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

Building the largest public-works project in Minnesota history is complex -- and confusing. Here are some of the key players involved.

The Metropolitan Council, a regional planning agency, has been the lead entity working on the project since 2006. It's in charge of designing, building and operating the line. Peter Bell is the council's longest-serving chairman and an appointee of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority was the project sponsor prior before the Met Council took the lead. In 2001, the rail authority began an official environmental study of the Central Corridor after 30 years of planning activities. The draft environmental impact statement identified the route, and selected light rail over bus rapid transit as the preferred mode of transportation.

The Central Corridor Management Committee is a key advisory panel to the Met Council, comprising representatives of all the project partners, including the mayors of both cities, commissioners from Ramsey and Hennepin County, and senior officials with the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

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Given the panel's makeup, some of the most spirited public discussions over the project take place at its meetings. The panel has also received input from community-based committees related to the planning, design and construction of the project.

The Central Corridor Coordinating Committee, which was in existence from 2000 to 2006, included representatives from the city, county, state and Met Council. It advised the Met Council on issues ranging from the route selection to the preferred mode of transit.

The Federal Transit Administration evaluates and rates the project. Project planners are counting on the federal government to pay $479 million, or half the project cost. The FTA must approve whether the project can advance to future planning stages, and whether it will receive a full funding grant agreement.

The Central Corridor Partnership, a business-led coalition, formed in 2004 to help advance the line and fight for funding. It includes the chambers of commerce for the two cities and St. Paul's Midway neighborhood. The partnership and a number of non-profits have been working with small businesses along the route to help prepare them for light-rail.

The City of St. Paul is responsible for addressing land use, growth, and economic development in the St. Paul portion of the corridor. City leaders say they are committed to building affordable housing, helping small businesses thrive, and making University Avenue more walkable.