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Use of Condemnation for Twin Cities Central Corridor Project Raises Concerns

The Central Corridor light-rail line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis will be one of the largest public works projects ever undertaken in Minnesota. The total cost of the project will approach $1 billion. Numerous land use issues are raised by building such a major project in the heart of an urban area.

Concerns about the project – the route chosen, the noise and disruption, and others – have come from a range of stakeholders, including the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio. Opposition also has arisen from various faith-based and community-based organizations, many of whom recall the disputes which arose over construction of Interstate 94 over 50 years ago. That project also featured the broad use of eminent domain powers to take land for construction, including in the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul.

Temporary Easements

As construction of the light-rail project began, property owners along the route have been directly affected, particularly those on University Avenue. For many, it has been a challenge to convince customers to continue to patronize affected businesses while construction is underway. For certain business owners and residents, however, a larger issue has been dealing with government efforts to acquire temporary easements along sidewalks and front yards.

Some property owners have accepted offers from the Metropolitan Council, which is overseeing the Central Corridor project. Other property owners have been negotiating.

Condemnation Proceedings

In early September, the Minnesota Department of Transportation took matters a step further by going to court to begin condemnation proceedings on over a dozen strips of property. Builders say these strips of property are among about 140 parcels that are required to give construction crews adequate room to dig culverts and do other work.

The Met Council says that it has no intention of using eminent domain to condemn entire homes or businesses. But its spokesman has also said that, in some cases, it may make sense for some small businesses to be relocated if noise or vibration issues cannot be resolved satisfactorily. The Met Council has budgeted $26 million to resolve relocation and condemnation issues with the Central Corridor project.

As this process plays out, it is important that property rights be protected. If you are affected by the Central Corridor, or have questions regarding eminent domain or condemnation issues generally, contact one of the experienced attorneys of Burns & Hansen, P.A..