The stops at Victoria Street, Hamline and Western avenues will eliminate all mile-long gaps on the line, a major point of contention.
Sounds of joy drowned out the squabbling over the Central Corridor light-rail line on Monday when St. Paul learned that it will be getting all three of the additional light-rail stations it has long sought.
"The energy in this room reminds me of a tent revival," said U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, who joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and a host of elected officials just steps from where the Victoria Street station will now be built, thanks to an infusion of federal, local and foundation money.
"The voices of our community have been heard loud and clear," said Mayor Chris Coleman.
The stations at Victoria, Hamline Avenue and Western Avenue bring the total to 23 and mean there will no longer be any mile-long gaps between stops, a major point of contention for neighborhoods along the 11-mile, nearly billion-dollar line.
"This is a huge victory," said Melvin Carter III, a City Council member who lives a few blocks from Western and University Avenue, "but our work to ensure that this project will serve those of us who chose this community long before light rail is far from done."
A coalition of businesses, nonprofits and residents sued Central Corridor planners last week in federal court, citing concerns about business interruption during construction, increased rents and taxes, and displacement of existing residents and businesses. Two federal civil rights complaints have been filed by other coalitions in the past year.
Veronica Burt, a public policy advocate and cultural organizer with the group that filed the suit, said the three stations were a welcome addition, but they may also exacerbate displacement and won't fix such problems as a lack of parking for businesses. She noted that the University of Minnesota has been in lengthy negotiations with the Metropolitan Council and has filed suit over the line's impact on research facilities, and she said neighborhoods also want protections for their interests.
Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration altered its funding formula, allowing for the possible inclusion of the stations along the University Avenue portion of the Central Corridor line. The federal government will provide $7.8 million for the stations, with another $5.2 million coming from the city of St. Paul, $1.6 million from a five-county transit sales tax and $520,000 from Ramsey County.
Another half-million will come from the Funders Collaborative, a group of foundations that has committed $20 million toward housing, business assistance and other concerns along the line.
The Central Corridor line will connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Utility work has already begun, and trains are scheduled to begin service in 2014.