St. Paul City Council objection could stall Central Corridor

Opposition to a train garage in St. Paul could push construction on the project back a year.

A resolution facing the St. Paul City Council could derail the Central Corridor light-rail project for another year. If passed, the resolution will block the Metropolitan Council from using a vacant building to house a Central Corridor light-rail train garage, which officials say would push the project back at least a year and impact the amount of federal funding the project would receive. The resolution will come before the City Council on March 18, when a final decision could be made. Initial concerns about vibration came from a research lab at the University of Minnesota, followed by similar concerns from Minnesota Public Radio, whose worries about noise from the light-rail pushed the project back from spring 2010 to late summer that year. Now, residents who live in the Lowertown community of St. Paul, are concerned about a proposed Central Corridor train garage to be located in the now- vacant Diamond Products building in the area. Nancy Homans, policy director in St. Paul Mayor Chris ColemanâÄôs office, said the communityâÄôs main concerns are that the facility would not fit with the character of the area and would destroy any potential to develop the land into something better for the community. Community members, who expressed their concerns at a public hearing Wednesday, said although they are excited for a light-rail line in the Twin Cities, they are concerned about how a train garage could impact the aesthetic and historical character of community, and urge the City Council to take its time to make the decision. But Central Corridor light-rail spokeswoman Laura Baenen said the building has been vacant for five years, and development is unlikely during the economic recession. The train garage, which was originally proposed to be located on county land near the Mississippi River, was moved to the Lowertown location because of issues concerning poor soil, which would have driven up construction costs, Baenen said. Baenen said moving to the new location is expected to save the project about $3 million. Opposing the location could put the project back from summer 2010 to the summer of 2011. Each year the project is delayed costs $27 million, and possible lost funding from the federal government, Baenen said. The Metropolitan Council hopes that the federal government will front half of the cash needed for the $915-million line, but the chances of that are lessened with each setback, Baenen said. âÄúItâÄôs important to meet the federal deadlines if you want federal funding,âÄù she said. âÄúI donâÄôt know if people think we have a rabbit to pull out of our hat, but we donâÄôt have extra money and we definitely do not have extra time.âÄù If St. Paul denies usage of the facility, the Metropolitan Council will work to negotiate a settlement with the city, but may have to hold a public hearing, and will make final decisions to accommodate objections.