Dolan Media Newswires
Minneapolis – A $914 million light rail project that would connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul has cleared a key hurdle with the federal government.
The Federal Transit Administration has issued a record of decision for the Central Corridor project, which will provide service on an 11-mile corridor.
The action indicates that the project satisfies the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and other regulations that consider the environmental impacts of projects receiving federal money.
“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,” said Laura Baenen, the Metropolitan Council’s Central Corridor spokeswoman.
Metropolitan Council officials have said a year’s delay in the project would add $30 million to the cost.
The Metropolitan Council, which is overseeing the project, hopes to get half of the project’s funding from the federal government. The record of decision doesn’t guarantee federal funding, but it’s a step toward final design, the project’s next phase.
“We will be applying this fall to enter final design,” Baenen said.
Among other things, the record of decision describes the proposed project and project alternatives, and includes public comments and responses.
Area businesses, residents and institutions have had plenty to say. At one point, more than 900 “people, agencies and organizations” commented on the project’s “alternatives analysis/draft environmental impact statement,” according to the record of decision.
Most notably, the University of Minnesota has expressed fears about vibration and electromagnetic interference on sensitive university research labs.
The Metropolitan Council has offered plans to reduce the project’s impact on the university and says it continues to work with university officials, who had urged the Federal Transit Administration to hold off on a record of decision pending a more “comprehensive” mitigation plan.
In its environmental finding in the record of decision, the transit administration determined that the project “has satisfied the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Clean Water Act of 1970, and the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966.”
The Metropolitan Council hopes to begin heavy construction in 2010.