FTA: Effect of LRT construction on businesses “speculative”

by John Hageman

Despite business closures along University Avenue, the effect of construction on the Central Corridor light rail line is “speculative in the extreme,” according to a business impact study released by the Federal Transit Administration Wednesday.

In January, a federal judge found that project planners didn’t adequately assess how construction would affect businesses along the corridor, and required a supplemental assessment. The report released Wednesday outlined that process.

Two town hall meetings were held in February to gather public input, but were met with a group of business owners protesting the project. The protestors contended that the project planners weren’t interested in what they had to say because construction wasn’t stopped, and they were forced to have the meeting.

While the report acknowledges that businesses will be adversly affected by construction, it notes that other factors, “other than construction activities, that can impact revenues of an individual business, including external economic factors, unemployment rates, and world events,” can’t be accounted for.

The report also touted mitigation efforts that project planners have implemented, such as forgivable loans alleviate the loss of on-street parking. The Metropolitan Council announced last week that an additional $3.3 in aid would be given to businesses.

“We’ve heard their voices,” Met Council Chair Susan Haigh said of business owners in a release. “They’re valued members of the community and the funding partners want to lend financial support. We also want to get the word out that businesses in the Central Corridor are open for business during construction.”

Construction on the Central Corridor light rail line is set to hit the University of Minnesota campus next month. The $1 billion project will connect downtown Minneapolis to St. Paul when it is completed in 2014.