Federal judge repeated order for a better study of construction impact but refused to shut down Central Corridor project.
A federal judge ruled on Monday that agencies overseeing construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line failed to conduct a study he ordered a year ago on its impact on adjacent businesses.
District Judge Donovan Frank again instructed the agencies to conduct the study, saying their previous effort "was deficient in its consideration of lost business revenue."
Frank denied a move by construction critics to halt the line until the study is completed. "The court continues to hope that all parties involved can approach future discussions or negotiations reasonably and with the goal of achieving a resolution," he wrote.
Frank noted that studying the impact on businesses is critical to providing future aid to any businesses whose revenues were hurt.
The case involves challenges by the NAACP and residents and businesses along the route to the Metropolitan Council and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
In January 2011, Frank called an earlier assessment by the agencies deficient and ordered a new one.
The FTA released another report last April that found there was "no significant impact" on the businesses. But the businesses said the more elaborate evaluation ordered by Frank was never done.
On Monday, the judge agreed.
"The court is simply requiring defendants to do what was previously ordered," he said.
"The ... record supports the conclusion that businesses in the Central Corridor will likely experience a decline in business revenue," Frank wrote, adding that the losses are directly related to construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line.
The FTA and Met Council "were required to discuss these impacts," the judge wrote.
More than $4 million in forgivable business loans and grants and $7 million in other aid were earmarked last year for University Avenue, where much of the $957 million light-rail line is being built. Some business owners say funding is inadequate.
The judge said the kind of study he ordered is required under federal law for actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment."
In declining to shut down the Central Corridor project until a proper study is done, Frank called such action "a drastic and extraordinary remedy."
"The interest of the general public to continue moving forward with construction ... outweighs the harm" of doing so without a better study of its impact, he wrote.
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504