On August 28, one of the hottest days of the summer, ground was broken for a skyway/ground connection in downtown St. Paul. Efforts for the connection to the METRO Green Line light rail station were led by Rick Cardenas, co-director of the advocacy group Advocating Change Together (ACT).
Cardenas was one of those who got to wield a shovel at the groundbreaking. “With the support of ACT and Corridors of Opportunity, the elevator will make it easier for people with disabilities, seniors, people pushing strollers and the general public to get to the Xcel Energy Center, Wilkins Auditorium, Ordway, their homes, work and everything in-between protected from the elements—even the heat!” said Cardenas.
Financial support for the $1.7 million connection is from an $800,000 federal grant received by Metro Transit and the balance provided by the Metropolitan Council from the Central Corridor Light Rail Project Contingency Budget. Cardenas and other advocates for accessibility fought for the connection, saying the elevator is imperative. They took their request to regional and local officials and lobbied state lawmakers before the federal funds and council grant were obtained.
“Transit investments like the Green Line are designed to better connect people to jobs and homes around the region. This project adds to the connections created by the light rail line and makes it easier for all people, particularly those with limited mobility, to access 40 blocks of downtown St. Paul via skyway from the light rail station and major bus stops,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh. “I’m pleased that we were able to make contingency money from the Green Line project budget available to improve access to transit services for all people. I’d like to thank our project partners for helping make this a reality including the city of St. Paul, Advocating Change Together and the CapitolRiver Council.” The council is the Downtown Neighborhood District council.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, City Council Member Dave Thune, Ramsey County Commissioners Rafael Ortega and Jim McDonough, Metropolitan Councilmembers Rich Kramer and Jon Commers, and Cardenas were among those at the groundbreaking.
St. Paul’s skyway system and accessible connections to and from street level have been under scrutiny in recent years. One problem has been building owners and managers who wish to lock up skyway access, leaving people hunting for elevator connections. Access to the light rail line, which starts operations in 2014, has been a huge concern.
“I heard from many of my constituents—downtown residents, employees and employers—on how important reestablishing a connection between the street and skyway at this location is to maintaining pedestrian access, comfort and safety throughout downtown,” said Thune. His ward includes the downtown area. “I am pleased that the Metropolitan Council understands this as well, and has committed its resources to making it happen.”
“Central Station will be one of the busiest stations along the Green Line, so connecting it to the heart of downtown is critical,” said Coleman. “Thank you to the accessibility advocates who worked hard to make this connection a reality, and to the Met Council for finding the funds to construct this valuable connection on the largest infrastructure project in Minnesota.”