Residents along University Avenue have concerns about current Central Corridor light rail plans âÄî and are taking steps to make sure government entities hear them. Surrounded by transit maps, street models and post-it notes, about 125 residents from Minneapolis and St. Paul gathered Saturday and Sunday at the Central Corridor Summit to address their concerns about the Central Corridor light rail, and create a community statement to serve as a direct agreement between the community and government agencies. Nathaniel Khaliq, president of the St. Paul NAACP, said many community members donâÄôt feel government agencies are listening to them. âÄúThey listened to the University, and they listened to MPR, and now they are listening to the residents of Lowertown, but what about us?âÄù he said. âÄúI hope we come out of here today having addressed our concerns âÄ¦ and if all else fails, we will address this in the courts.âÄù The event included an opening presentation followed by an afternoon of work groups, where residents worked to tackle solutions to problems such as traffic and parking, bicycle environment near the line and business mitigation. The goal of the summit was to culminate these concerns into a single community statement, which will describe what the community has envisioned for the light rail compared to what the Metropolitan Council has already planned.
Baduj Younes, who owns a clothing store on University Avenue, went to the summit because he is afraid he will lose his business during construction and after completion of the line. Younes said Williams Store is not located near a planned light rail stop, and he fears heâÄôll lose customers who wonâÄôt want to walk to visit his business. âÄúEverything I worked for and built here is going to be destroyed overnight,âÄù he said. âÄúAnd construction, what business can survive through four years of construction?âÄù Nicholas Allyn, a University of Minnesota employee, said he is concerned about the availability of parking in Stadium Village both during construction and after the line is complete. âÄúItâÄôs going to be a pain to get into work for awhile, and parking is already limited in that area,âÄù Allyn said, but added that these will be âÄúgrowing painsâÄù in the process of getting better transportation on campus. Others who live near University Avenue are worried that transit users will park their cars on local streets and use the train. While some community members suggested park and rides as a solution, others felt that providing an easy place to park encourages people to keep using their cars and defeats the purpose of the light rail. An overarching concern was how cars, bicycles, buses and the light-rail line can be combined into a safe transportation environment. Jessica Treat, executive director of Smart Trips, a St. Paul business that consults employers on commuting solutions, said University Avenue is the most direct route for bicyclists to get to downtown St. Paul, Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, and that will not change when a light-rail line is added to the car traffic. âÄúHow can we make this a calm area for all modes of transportation?âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs the people that go to businesses, not the cars.âÄù Dennis Presley Sr., a St. Paul community organizer, said he wants to see the line come to the Twin Cities, but doesnâÄôt see the current plan working for residents along University Avenue. âÄúIf this doesnâÄôt happen for all of us, it happens for none of us,âÄù he said.