In response to a court order, the Metropolitan Council and the Federal Transit Administration recently released a new report that looks at how businesses have been affected by the construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line.
After some area businesses and the St. Paul branch of the NAACP filed a complaint against the transit officials, a judge ruled in 2011 that the Met Council’s 2009 environmental impact report was inadequate, because it failed to address the impact of construction on local business revenues. The judge ordered that a new report be completed, although he did not halt construction.
The transit officials released a draft report in December, and the latest report—which is called the Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement and runs more than 200 pages—includes responses to public comments about the draft report.
In its December report, the Met Council outlined a number of positive findings. For example, of the 1,243 street-level businesses on the corridor, the area saw a net loss of only three businesses amid construction as of June 2012, the period during which that factor was measured.
But it found a significant loss in revenue among area businesses. Those that participated in the Business Support Fund—which provided forgivable loans to eligible area retailers with annual sales of less than $2 million—“saw a range of losses from 2 to 84 percent of average monthly revenues with a mean average sales loss of 30 percent and a median of 25 percent,” the report stated. “A reasonable hypothesis is that other small and large retail-oriented businesses in the corridor may also experience similar losses in the 25 to 30 percent range.”
In the wake of their December report, the transit officials received a number of responses from the public, and those comments are included in the latest report. For example, some commenters complained that the report lacked a comprehensive assessment of the effects on area businesses. But the latest report argues that businesses were hesitant to share revenue figures, so “precise quantification of project-level construction impacts on all corridor business revenues could not be completed.” That is why the draft report included data specific to the Business Support Fund, the latest report states.
The new report also details outreach efforts that were meant to integrate public input into the project, including comment periods following the release of project documentation and 1,150 public meetings, among other things. In addition, it pointed to a $1.2 million marketing campaign meant to lure customers to Central Corridor businesses during construction, as well as loan programs meant to aid local businesses.
Overall, the Met Council said that roughly $13.3 million was spent on efforts meant to mitigate the impact of construction.
The new report is open for public comment through July 8. To view the Met Council’s complete report, click here.
Construction of the $957 million, 11-mile Central Corridor light-rail line, which will connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul and run along University and Washington avenues, began in 2010. Service is expected to begin mid-2014, and the route will operate as the Metro Green Line. It will use 18 new stations and share five others with the existing Hiawatha light-rail line.
As of May, 92 percent of construction—including all “heavy” construction—had been completed, according to the Met Council. Remaining work includes installation of overhead electrical wires, among other things.
This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.