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Lowertown businesses meeting with light-rail planners

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A handful of business owners from St. Paul's Lowertown district Tuesday will meet with light-rail planners to vent some of their frustrations over early work on Central Corridor.

Work crews have been relocating utilities beneath Fourth Street for about a year to prepare for the rail project, which will connect St. Paul to Minneapolis. Much of the street is torn up, and business owners say they're concerned about a lack of parking and streetlights for their customers.

Steve Ledin, co-owner of the Station 4 music venue, said the utility work has produced problems he never anticipated.

"They burst our water main twice. They burst our sewer line. They cut the phone lines, they cut the gas line," Ledin said. "Nobody could be prepared for that. I never could have imagined in my worst nightmare my building be evacuated because construction crews cut a gas line."

Ledin said his business has dropped at least 30 percent, and  some customers seem to have given up on finding their way to his club.

"The streets change on a daily basis -- one torn up, then the next and then both, and then one, and then none, and then both," he said. "It's a real moving target how to get to Station 4, let alone to park or access our facility."

Despite the lost business, Ledin said he still supports the project and thinks the project staff is doing its best to communicate with the businesses. But he thinks University Avenue storefronts will be equally inconvenienced when work on the line moves west.

Project staff said they are doing their best to communicate problems with the general contractor and inform businesses of road detours and other changes.