Light Rail Transit Construction Impact Mitigation Strategies: Case Studies and Recommendations for the Central Corridor
The proposed Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT) line stretching from downtown Minneapolis to downtown Saint Paul has the potential to revitalize the neighborhoods it passes through. Projected to carry nearly 43,270 passengers daily by the year 2030, the line is an opportunity for significant investment in the local economy through transportation infrastructure improvements. When completed, the increased mobility and accessibility along the corridor will provide opportunities for increased economic activity and provide existing businesses with the ability to reach new markets.
Many of the business owners along the corridor, however, are concerned about the negative impacts the construction process may bring. The proposed transit line is scheduled to begin a three year construction phase in 2010. Construction of light rail, like any large construction process, can significantly disrupt the normal business operations along a corridor. Potential impacts include the interruption of electricity and utility services, removal of sidewalks and pedestrian access points, and a diversion of automobile traffic or lane configurations. In addition, the mere presence of construction activities can often be a significant psychological barrier for customers, whether or not there is actual decrease in physical access.
Businesses of various types and sizes are located along the Central Corridor and several business districts have emerged, each with a unique mixture of retail, service, industrial, and other types of businesses. In Minneapolis, for example, the proposed alignment along Washington Avenue will pass through the Stadium Village neighborhood, a lively neighborhood catering to students at the nearby University of Minnesota. The area is home to restaurants, clothing shops, taverns, and other convenience retail stores that depend on pedestrian access for much of their business.
In Saint Paul, the proposed alignment passes through a wide variety of business districts. Towards the western end of University Avenue, many of the nearby light industrial businesses depend on large trucks to send and receive products. Several large shopping centers with both small businesses and big-box retailers are situated along the corridor. Stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, Office Max, Cub Foods, and Rainbow Foods depend mostly on accessibility via automobile with some accessibility from local bus service. Traffic diversion during construction, both intentional and unplanned, is likely to present a major hardship to these businesses.
There are many small businesses located immediately adjacent to University Avenue in Saint Paul that will be particularly vulnerable to disruptions caused by the construction process. Many of the businesses along the corridor cater specifically to the needs of immigrants and those with culturally diverse backgrounds. In many cases, these small businesses are owned by members of the community without formal training in business management and without large capital budgets to absorb the impact of a construction season. Many of the businesses depend almost entirely on convenient storefront accessibility to draw customers.
The purpose of this report is to provide case studies from other light rail construction projects that may provide insight into the Central Corridor LRT construction process. Understanding the mitigation measures used during the construction of other recent LRT projects will provide a better understanding of the options available for use in the Twin Cities. In the next section, this report will consider the mitigation efforts utilized throughout the construction of LRT in seven cities: Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, Houston, and San Jose. For each case study, this report provides a general overview of the project characteristics and a summary of construction mitigation strategies utilized during each project. In addition, this report provides insight from project public outreach coordinators regarding the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies. The final section of this paper provides a summary and brief comparison of efforts used in the seven cities along with a set of recommendations for the Central Corridor LRT in the Twin Cities.
These seven cities were chosen because they have something in common with the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Portland, Seattle, and Denver, and Phoenix are often considered peer cities with the Twin Cities because of their relatively similar size. Salt Lake City, Houston, and San Jose, although somewhat larger or smaller than the Twin Cities metropolitan area, were chosen because each of these systems feature a center-running alignment along an arterial street similar to that proposed for Central Corridor. For each of the case studies information is drawn from other written reports, community outreach materials, and direct communication with representatives from each transit property.