[By popular demand, here is the latest Op-Ed from the Highland Villager. Image of the sun-blotting Olin Crossing High-Rise Housing Project, taken from Fred's website.]
Sounding the alarm for light rail in St. Paul
By Barnaby Wiesner
To the residents of the neighborhoods along the route of the planned Central Corridor light-rail line, from a resident of a neighborhood along the Hiawatha light-rail line: Yes, your neighborhoods will be destroyed.
If the Central Corridor line is built, you will not be able to park in front of your house, or behind your house if you share an alley with one of the high-rises that will be built along University Avenue. On my block, I have witnessed as many as 23 parked cars at at time that did not belong to any resident of the block. This winder due to the snow, Minneapolis declared a permanent ban on even-sided parking. This reduces the number of available parking spaces on my block to less than 23, which means I have to park on another block.
When developers -- like those from Metro Plains, which built Vantage Flats -- tell you that parking from their new high-rises will not be a problem for you, they will be lying. The residents of the new high-rises and their guests will park along your street. Fans of the Twins and Vikings will use your street as free parking lots and as garbage cans and ashtrays. Your streets will become the long-term parking lots of those traveling by train to either downtown.
High-rises are not a spectre here in Minneapolis; they are a reality. Come and see Vantage Flats, Minnehaha Place and Olin Crossing along Minnehaha Avenue between 52nd and 54th streets. Because of the shadows they cast, the snow takes longer to melt, so in the winter you have longer to deal with the problem of trying to turn into your garage from the frozen ruts in the alley. In the summer, your backyard gardens will suffer from a lack of direct sunlight.
In the summer, you will never be able to have your windows open. Crossing alarms for the train will sound at every street crossing, and even though the Metropolitan Council will tell you these alarms will be "aimed" only along the road, the aimable alarms will only be installed downtown, so that in the neighborhoods you will be able to hear the alarms from four blocks away.
These alarms will sound 24 hours a day. The Met Council will tell you that the trains will not run between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., but the trains start at both ends of the line, so they will need to travel the route from the garage to downtown every morning. These alarms will sound more than 20 times an hour during rush hour. Because these alarms are specifically designed to be warnings, you will never get used to them.
At the light-rail stations, there will be several other alarms. The alarm for when the train is approaching also sounds the entire time the train is stopped at a station. The trains themselves have two alarms and, in true Minnesota-nice fashion, they like to sound the louder one as they pass a half block from your home.
You worry about alley traffic. Yes, there will be alley traffic. The high-rise construction crews will park their trucks in the alley during morning rush hour even though it is illegal to do so. They will also block University Avenue while they clean their trucks out even though it is illegal to do so. But more important, and more distressing to you, will be the fact that every street that parallels University Avenue will become a secondary circulation route, because University itself will become a nightmare to drive along. Traffic will become so difficult to manage on University that drivers will seek other routes.
The disruption of traffic will extend south of I-94. As there are a limited number of streets that cross the freeway, traffic on these streets will back up for blocks because of the trains, especially when a second train causes a stoplight override to begin even though a previous stoplight override has just ended.
Remember what driving along Marshall Avenue was like when it had four lanes of traffic? Now it has two lanes of traffic with a left-turn lane that has no left-turn signals, which effectively prevents drivers from turning left. That is what University will be like if the light-rail line is built there. After the trains have been running a while and traffic problems have become horrendous, the city will spend a quarter million of your tax dollars to fund a study to determine why these problems exist.
Finally, you will have to live with the fear that your homes will be taken by eminent domain so that your city can give the land to a developer even though this is illegal under Minnesota law. (This is what is happening on my block. The state took homes from my block to build a highway. When the highway was built somewhere else, the state gave the land to the city of Minneapolis, and the city now plans to give it to a developer to build a high-rise.) Before the city does this, it will make you pay for another study that will show you what your neighborhood will look like after it has been "revitalized."
You may think that I paint a dim picture. I have personally witnessed every problem I have told you about. And I am only one resident. Multiply my stories by the number of residents along the Hiawatha light-rail line and you will have an accurate assessment of what life will be like for you if the Central Corridor is built.
[Barnaby Wiesner is a resident of the Nokomis East neighborhood of South Minneapolis.][Contact info for the Highland Villager: Publisher, Michael Mischke: firstname.lastname@example.org; Editorial, press releases, calendar items and editorial questions: email@example.com.]