Businesses and other property owners along University Avenue have long had concerns about the way the Metropolitan Council has handled the construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line in St. Paul. Now, they have a court victory that at least acknowledges many of those concerns.
The disruptive impact of constant construction on business owners was a significant issue from the outset. There were also concerns about an overly wide use of the government's eminent domain power (condemnation) to acquire easements, which in some cases ran right through people's front yards.
These concerns led to real estate litigation. The litigation had a racial dimension to it, as many African-American residents of St. Paul still remember the heavy-handed way that I-94 was built through the old Rondo neighborhood in the 1950s. That construction displaced many African-American homes and businesses. The residents along University Avenue in St. Paul did not want the Central Corridor project to disparately impact their neighborhood as well.
In addition, business owners along the route understandably wanted the construction done in a way that would enable them to remain open during construction. Many of those owners sued the Metropolitan Council, asserting that there had been a failure to plan properly for the disruptions to businesses.
In late January, a federal judge in St. Paul ruled that the Met Council did indeed fail to properly take account of the impact on local businesses of light-rail construction. Judge Donovan Frank found the Met Council's environmental impact statement deficient and ordered the Central Corridor planners to do a more thorough analysis of that impact. Judge Frank did not order the project to halt, but his ruling should ensure that the affected residents and businesses receive a more full hearing of their concerns.
Source: Rondo plaintiffs get partial victory in light rail ruling, MPR, 1-27-11