Central Corridor undergoing redevelopment, but at what cost?

Categories: Transportation
Thumbnail image for central corridor map.JPG
Public funds are being used both to spur development and keep beleaguered businesses afloat.
Two years before its scheduled opening, the area along the Met Council's $957 million Central Corridor project is already undergoing redevelopment  -- but is it a case of government throwing good money after bad?

In a news release issued late last month, the council notes that almost 40 commercial and housing developments are under construction or planned for construction along the rail line, which stretches from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul along Washington and University avenues. More than 5,100 housing units have already been completed.

But as MinnPost's Steven Dornfield points out:
Many of the projects, particularly in the two downtowns and the University of Minnesota area, were underway before LRT or would have gone forward even in the absence of the rail line. For example, the news release includes the 12-year-long project that led to the creation of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in Minneapolis.
Furthermore, two major downtown St. Paul residential projects now moving forward only progressed because the city took over after private developers pulled out.

That's not to say the city's involvement won't ultimately be a beneficial thing for St. Paul residents, but, as former state Rep and president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota Phil Krinkie told MinnPost, it sure would be nice to see more private development occur.

Development notwithstanding, existing businesses along the under-construction rail line continue to struggle to stay alive. Construction means chewed-up roadways, congestion, and little-to-no on-street parking.

To help impacted businesses stay afloat until 2014, the Met Council recently announced that it plans to spend $1.2 million on a marketing campaign enticing shoppers to visit the beleaguered area.

But the Star Tribune reports that "the campaign has drawn criticism from some who see it as an odd expenditure at a time when [the Met Council] has complained of budget shortfalls and raised property taxes."

$957 million for the rail line... numerous instances of city and Met Council subsidies used to spur development projects... now, another $1.2 million in public funds for a marketing campaign. Sure, the Central Corridor will be a great community asset when it's up and running, but are we sure that a less costly and disruptive investment in bus rapid transit wouldn't have been preferable?



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16 comments
VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

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pizza
pizza

Everyone is right... except for Four Eyes

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

The biggest failure of the Met Council was their complete and total failure to supervise the construction crews who refused to put up proper signage, create adequate turn lanes or in any way let commuters know in advance what they were up against on any given day. Midway's Central Corridor has been a living hell since light rail construction started, and it's been 100% the fault of the Met Council for failing to in any meaningful way provide even the slightest bit of oversight to a project that ripped the Twin Cities longest avenue into a massive clusterfuck of anarchic proportions.

But once the dust has settled and we have light rail, be amazed at all the well connected rich fucks who will swoop into Midway to buy up failed businesses so they can replace them with crappy chains and fucked up franchises. The screwing of Midway has just begun, and any actions taken by the Met Council will simply be in furtherance of their long-term goal of making Minnesota safe for oligarchs.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Which is cheaper? Really? Come on City Pages...

Which is cheaper...huh. Let's ask the important questions, shall we?

Of course we are sure it is cheaper to buy more fucking buses...but is that how good decisions are made? Which is cheapest? Good lord. WRITE AN ARTICLE ALREADY.

"Minnesota is using steel in the reinforced concrete used in infrastructure, but would it have been cheaper to use wood?"

HurdyGurdy
HurdyGurdy

You greatly exaggerate the effects of construction on University ave. I mean, "massive clusterfuck of anarchic proportions?" Come on. A fun poetic exercise in hyperbole, but I live on University, and drive on and through it everday. Yes, it was confusing at points when a lane that existed in the morning dissapeared on the evening commute, and signage could have been much better, but the only problems occured with impatient drivers who felt that construction zone = no-rules driving. And now it's over, with 2 lanes either way, and just as easy to drive.

What would you have us do with Midway or Frogtown, let the houses continue to fall apart, and leave the citizens with only inefficient and unreliable bus transportation? Leave it alone to protect your sense of social equilibrium? Do you even live in or near Midway or Frogtown? The lightrail is indeed a long, difficult process, but the business owners and citizens who stick around can potentially prosper with increased investment, mobility, and access to resources.

I'm all for local businesses, but Midway needs investment, badly. And that's what will happen. If jobs come in the form of a barber shop or franchise pharmacy, that's still investment. Gentrification seems to be your fear (though cloaked in obscenities), and it's a valid worry, but that can happen with or without a train, and we have yet to see the actual results.

I'm not sure what will happen with the lightrail, but your level of anger and judgment is illogical. I know people don't like the hassle of construction, but simply doing nothing about the real problem of physical and social mobility is a self-centered attempt at preserving your established routines, not protection of the Midway and Frogtown communities.

Aaron Rupar
Aaron Rupar

It's not a matter of which is cheapest, but of return on investment. Sure, BRT costs less and that's a factor, but it's ultimately about spending public dollars to move people to particular places as quickly and easily as possible. Which system does that best? The post isn't meant to be an analysis of the complex BRT vs. LRT issue, but from what I've read there are strong arguments that BRT is the better way to go. I'm just raising the question.

pizza
pizza

Show me yer dick, or yer gay

HurdyGurdy
HurdyGurdy

And on a side note, I would really like to hear the opinions of people living in the effected areas - what the construction has done so far to their lives and what they expect the results to be. That'll be much more useful than the views of journalists and the politically-involved with their alterior motives.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

The problem is that the question you ask is not the question you pose here. The myopic, short-term monetary question you posed was the easiest to ask, easiest to answer and the wrong question.

Is BRT cheaper? This isn't junior high forensics...your question is referring to the short-term monetary costs of the two...which no one should give a shit about. What are the long term savings to infrastructure and development? Buses tear the shit out of the roads we all pay for, buses break down more frequently, buses use more energy (which costs money)...this deserves more than ten sentences in the blotter...write the big article, Aaron, I want to read it.

I Hate Everything
I Hate Everything

City Pages raise questions? Well, yeah, because that's easier than doing research. What did your investigation into BRT find?

That wasn't a rhetorical question, but probably could have been since I'm sure this post is in the same vein as every other internet commenter that just wants to complain without fully knowing the subject matter or having an axe to grind one particular detail of a much more complex issue. I know every other city that has adopted light rail transit does nothing but complain about it. Though I guess I should give you credit for citing a guy who wishes there was more private investment... because there are a lot of privately built public transportation systems out there.

Personally, I wish they would have put in high-speed horse and buggy lines instead of roads back in the day, but too late now... But I did find a guy who thought it would have been nice if GM and Ford had paid to build all those roads.

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

Light rail alone will not help Frogtown. If Frogtown is improved, it will be because of tax incentives, heavier police presence and outside dollars to clean up eyesores. The only impact of light rail on Midway will be to make it harder to get across University.

But there is one scenario I'm assuming won't happen. I'm assuming the MTC won't cut back bus service to Midway. If they do, they could force locals to use light rail more heavily than they would otherwise (buses are much more convenient when traveling short distances).

Existing light rail is a boon for commuters. Show me the stats on how south Minneapolitans are using light rail in lieu of cars/buses for non-commuter purposes.

Odoacer
Odoacer

Frogtown will not improve because of light rail, and will be lucky if they still have any local businesses left by construction's end, checking cashing ripoff joints excepted.

Care to make a wager on that Mark, specifically the former portion?

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

Oh, as for the rest of your comments, how will light rail aid anyone in Midway? Light rail is for the eastern burban commuters. Frogtown will not improve because of light rail, and will be lucky if they still have any local businesses left by construction's end, checking cashing ripoff joints excepted.

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

I live in Midway and from day to day never knew which intersections were open and which were obstructed, which had turn lanes and which did not. Maybe the difference was that my routes invariably crossed University Avenue, but on the occasions when I had to go east or west, my travel time on University was doubled if not tripled or worse.

When signs were put up, they were put in places where they made no sense, or left up days after the work described was done. More than once I detoured based on what a sign said only to find that the obstruction was on the detour route, not the route the sign was on.

I've worked construction, I understand construction, and you sir, obviously do not understand how easily this project could have been improved had anyone involved given just half a shit.

Atrupar
Atrupar

Your point is well taken, David, but I still think you're misreading me. The bottom line is more than 1 billion public dollars are going toward Central Corridor LRT. Now, few will argue against the notion that all else being equal, LRT is better than BRT. But let's say Central Corridor BRT, with enhanced bus stops and all the amenities you see with BRT systems elsewhere, costs $300 million (and that's certainly a high-end estimation). Is the extra $700 million for LRT worth it, especially given all the disruption in the Midway area during the four years construction is ongoing? That's the question I was trying to pose with the blog post. Perhaps I didn't do a very good job making that clear.

In any event, it's certainly an issue I plan to revisit in greater depth as construction proceeds and plans begin to take shape for the propose Southwest LRT line...

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