For St. Paul businesses, light rail construction costly as a sudden storm

That's how some businesses along University avenue and in Lowertown may be feeling.

Laura Yuen and I checked in with a handful of owners within the last week. They tell a sobering story.

Light rail construction disruption is hitting them hard in the pocketbook with revenue losses ranging from 15 to 40 percent.

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How and why?

The pictures tell the story. Streets diverted, parking gone, customers not showing up.

The Metropolitan Council and the city of St. Paul aren't standing still. They're working with the businesses on signage, promotions and advertising. There's a $4 million fund for forgivable loans up to $20,000 to help qualifying businesses cover losses.

Most of the streets eventually reopen as crews move to another work site. But it can be weeks and months of construction mayhem carving into revenues.

And many of those affected are not big national chains. They are the Mas and Pas, Uncles and Aunts of the world. Pockets aren't that deep, the daily cash flow keeps them a step ahead of the creditors.

Light rail boosters tout the little train as a potent economic development tool.

But the LRT goes into service three and half years from now. And then some years after that transit-oriented development might take hold with the promised economic boost.

Between now and then the business owners along the Central Corridor line are urging their customers to stop by and help them stay solvent.