Central Corridor EIS gets federal OK

by Briana Bierschbach

The Federal Transit Administration issued a "record of decision" on the environmental impact statement for the Central Corridor light rail line, which indicates that the project satisfies the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 and other regulations, according to Finance and Commerce.

The $914 million project, which will connect downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis via University and Washington Avenues, is slated to begin construction in late summer 2010 and begin running in 2014. The Metropolitan Council is hoping that the federal government will fund half of the project’s costs.

“This was a big hurdle to get over. … If the FTA had said, ‘this is no good’ – that would have been quite a setback in terms of time and money,” Laura Baenen, the Metropolitan Council’s Central Corridor spokeswoman told Finance and Commerce, adding that a year delay could add $30 million to the project cost.

The ruling of the FTA puts the project one step closer to entering the final design phase, which Met Council officials hope to apply for this fall.

In the record of decision, some University Avenue businesses  complained about losing on-street parking, and the University of Minnesota has expressed fears about vibration and electromagnetic interference on 80 research labs in 17 buildings along Washington Avenue.

The decision also cited letters from several public officials, including State Sen. Larry Pogemiller, who called for a northern alignment around the University of Minnesota. Rep. Alice Hausman requested consideration of a route that would take trains into downtown St. Paul via Rice Street and St. Peter Street, according to Finance and Commerce.