Area wants closer stop

Opposition to the proposed Blegen Hall stop for the new light rail sparked a petition.

McKenna Ewen

A West Bank movement pushing for an off-campus light-rail station is gaining support from University members.

The proposed light-rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul is entering the preliminary engineering stage, and community groups are hoping for a station closer to Cedar-Riverside instead of Blegen Hall.

The CHANCE initiative, short for Cedar Humphrey Action for Neighborhood Collaborative Engagement, is a student-led group that has worked to strengthen the relationship between the University and the Cedar-Riverside community.

To help build support for a station at Cedar Avenue South and 19th Avenue, CHANCE members Sarah Martyn and Katie Peacock started a petition that includes 240 names of University students and faculty members.

“I really feel like there have been a lot of policies in the past that haven’t included the voice of the community,” Martyn said.

Peacock said more people would benefit from a stop closer to the neighborhood.

“It becomes a social justice issue of access for those who benefit from public transportation,” Peacock said.

Although the line will not be completed until 2014, stop plans will be finalized within the next two years. Those decisions will have a lasting impact on the area.

The University might have ruled Blegen Hall out as a stop due to engineering problems, but could not confirm that Sunday. High traffic on Washington Avenue could also pose a problem.

“The way that Washington Avenue is built, it sort of operates like a freeway. That’s not a good pedestrian environment,” Community Relations Director Jan Morlock said.

A well-designed station could help to reconnect parts of the campus divided by Washington Avenue as well as connect the campus with the community, she said.

“It’s going to be a huge, important asset for the Twin Cities area for the next hundred years,” Morlock said. “These are really important decisions and considerations being made right now.”

Supporters of the Cedar Avenue station argue that it would increase area growth by developing the surrounding land.

Tim Mungavan, executive director of the West Bank Community Development Corporation, said a light-rail station at the intersection of Cedar and Washington avenues would provide a big boost to the business community.

Additionally, Cedar-Riverside residents would have more job opportunities, he said.

“Not only would people be able to get conveniently to businesses in the neighborhood, but hopefully it would bring more University-related people into our community,” Mungavan said.

Positioning the station on Cedar Avenue would show light-rail users that there’s another side to the University, family and social science senior Naima Bashir said.

“I really believe that the University isn’t doing enough to become a part of that community,” she said.

The final decision could come down to dollars and cents: The line is currently projected at more than $200 million above the threshold for federal funding, Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell said.