With three weeks to go before big decisions are made on the scope of the Central Corridor light-rail project, St. Paul City Council members continue to advocate for three additional stops along University Avenue.

On Wednesday, the council unanimously adopted a resolution that emphasizes the importance of the three stations between Snelling Avenue and Rice Street and requests a voting seat on the committee that will advise the Metropolitan Council during the line's design and construction.

The project is running at about $1.1 billion -- with a proposed tunnel at the University of Minnesota and terminus at the back of the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul -- but needs to be shaved to $840 million to qualify for federal funding. Each additional station would cost about $5.5 million. The Met Council will vote Feb. 27 on what stays and goes.

The resolution makes clear the council's opinion that the additional stations would serve residents better and spur economic development. That's a view many residents share.

What's best for residents?

"It's a community need," said Dan Kravetz, community development assistant at Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. He said the emphasis on the federal requirements and deadlines might be overshadowing what's best for residents of neighborhoods the line would run through.

"If you don't do it right the first time, it costs you in the long run," he said.

The area between Snelling and Rice has high concentrations of minority and low-income residents, many of whom depend on mass transit.

According to a study by the District Councils Collaborative, adding the three stations would:

Increase ridership because those who live in the area would be more likely to walk the shorter distances.

Create better opportunities for business growth.

Be more consistent with .18- to .75-mile distances between stations in other cities.

So far, 16 new stations are proposed along the line. The three "infill" stations would be at Hamline Avenue, Victoria Street and Western Avenue.

Met Council responds

A recently released response by the Met Council to that report says:

Riders of the Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis who walk to stations walk an average of .45 miles.

Almost all residents within a mile from the line would be within a .25-mile walking distance from a bus or rail stop.

The economic impacts of the additional stops have yet to be addressed.

A Met Council analysis shows that adding the three stations would increase downtown-to-downtown travel times by about 30 seconds and projects that the extra time would cost the line about 400 riders per weekday.

The City Council resolution will be noted like other public comments, said Laura Baenen, Central Corridor project communications manager. As for the extra stations, she said, nothing has been decided yet.

The Met Council is seeking public input at three sessions: 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at Metro Transit Fred T. Heywood Offices, 560 6th Av. N., Minneapolis; 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Goodwill Easter Seals, 553 Fairview Av. N., in St. Paul, and 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday at the Met Council chambers, 390 N. Robert St., St. Paul. You can also send comments via e-mail to centralcorridor@metc.state.mn.us.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542