Groups want station moved

Not everyone is happy with the planned location of a light-rail stop.

by Charley Bruce

With the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line in the planning stages, community groups and businesses in Cedar-Riverside want a stop moved closer to them than the University.

Nearly every map of the line shows the stop at Blegen Hall, but the West Bank Community Coalition and the Cedar Riverside Business Association have passed resolutions recommending the stop be at Cedar Avenue South, and the area’s county commissioner agrees.

Cedar Riverside Business Association member Rosemary Knutson wants the station on Washington Avenue between 19th Avenue and Cedar Avenue South, with stairs going up to Cedar and the Carlson School of Management.

“It needs to be a station that serves the greater community as well as the University,” she said.

University officials were not available for comment.

Knutson doesn’t think the station should be in front of Blegen Hall because it would primarily serve the University.

Knutson believes the stop originated in 20-year-old plans, which are under revision. That gives her hope that the location could change.

The West Bank neighborhood is probably the most transit-dependent area in the city, she said.

The 2000 census found about 1,300 households in the West Bank and Cedar Riverside neighborhood without cars.

Cedar Riverside Business Association member Dan Prozinski said the Seven Corners and Cedar Riverside business areas are separated by Washington Avenue Southeast and it creates a chasm.

“Seven Corners is kind of an island,” he said.

Prozinski, a former association president, said a station at Cedar Avenue would bring the two sides together with more pedestrian traffic.

“It would help unify the old neighborhood,” he said.

Prozinski said that the stop’s location would also improve economic activity and safety with more pedestrian traffic.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said he told county staff to support a stop closer to Cedar Avenue South, providing more service to more transit riders.

He said he thinks moving the stop off the University is a good idea.

“It’s in the University’s interest to have neighborhoods around the University in good shape,” McLaughlin said.

Deputy Manager General for Metro Transit Mark Fuhrmann said the 19 and 2 bus routes, which run through the area, have “very strong ridership.”

Fuhrmann said the final decision about where to put the stop will happen this year.

“We know there is a West Bank station as part of the project, but we don’t know precisely where that station will be situated,” he said.

One deciding factor is determining extra costs involved at one stop versus another, Fuhrmann said.

The largest costs projected for the line are the University’s East Bank tunnel ($155 million), the St. Paul Fourth Street to Union Depot stretch ($72 million), and the University Avenue Southeast reconstruction ($55 million).

The project, at a hefty $932 million, needs to be trimmed to about $800 million to receive federal funding, Fuhrmann said.

The line’s planners need to understand how adjusting the station could affect ridership, Fuhrmann said.

“We will need to apply our ridership model to see if there is a positive or negative effect of doing that,” he said.

No matter where the 200- to 300-foot-long platform is placed, Fuhrmann said, the tracks will be laid in the same place.