$18.8 million budgeted for light-rail amenities

  • Article by: CHRIS HAVENS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2009 - 8:42 PM

The St. Paul City Council trimmed $3.5 million from the original spending plan for trees, lighting and an additional station, and hopes to draw on multiple funding sources.

The St. Paul City Council approved an $18.8 million plan Wednesday to pay for an additional station, 1,000 trees, fancy lighting and other improvements along University Avenue when the Central Corridor light-rail line is built.

That's a $3.5 million reduction from an earlier proposal on which council members delayed voting last week. Wednesday's vote was 6-1, with Lee Helgen voting no.

The action didn't trigger the spending of any money -- yet. There are a combination of funding sources, and each will need separate and additional approval by the council. Public hearings will be scheduled.

The potential money sources are bonds, revenue from special taxing districts, assessments to property owners and grants from the city's half-cent sales tax fund, known as STAR.

Other funding sources are also being sought.

The project has a price tag of up to $941 million, but project officials have said there isn't enough money for the improvements St. Paul officials are seeking.

Among the biggest differences between Wednesday's plan and the earlier proposal was a decision to negotiate with the Metropolitan Council, the project leader, to absorb $3.1 million worth of improvements to medians.

When asked about that, project spokeswoman Laura Baenen said the current plan of rebuilding the avenue from storefront to storefront stands. "At least today," she said.

Council Member Russ Stark, who sponsored the proposal, also added $1.5 million to the plan to help solve issues related to the anticipated loss of 85 percent of the on-street parking on University.

The new plan also reduces the amount of assessment and special taxing district money.

Provided the federal government agrees to kick in half of the project's cost, the 11-mile line connecting the Twin Cities' downtowns is scheduled to begin operating in 2014.

Chris Havens • 612-673-4148

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