An additional $3.3 million is being made available for businesses affected by construction of the Central Corridor light rail route, officials announced Wednesday.
The Metropolitan Council, the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and some private funders are now providing a total of $11.1 million in grants, forgivable loans and other support.
Met Council Chair Susan Haigh said the Central Corridor project will promote economic growth along University Avenue when the trains are running, but she acknowledged the construction period presents challenges.
"Right now is a critical time to try to keep those businesses who are operating in the corridor strong and successful and able to benefit from the corridor once it's completed," Haigh said.
The forgivable loan fund to help businesses during construction has grown to about $4 million. Central Corridor planners are also putting an additional $310,000 toward business and marketing support and $525,000 to improve access and make streets safer and more appealing, Met Council officials said.
Some business groups have criticized the Central Corridor project in the past for not helping businesses enough.
Jack McCann, president of the University Avenue Business Association, said he's waiting to hear details about how all the money will be distributed. But he said the announcement of additional money was encouraging.
"We're very pleased they're starting to see the need for some assistance, and they're starting to realize the impact this is causing on the small business community up and down here," McCann said. "We by no means will be easing up until we feel like it's been sufficiently addressed."
Businesses along University Avenue are concerned about losing customers during construction. They've also been worried about losing street parking for customers.
Trains start service between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul in 2014.
More information from the Metropolitan Council about money for Central Corridor businesses is available here.
McCann's group put together its own report on impacts to businesses here.