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Mitigating Light Rail Construction Impact

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Construction of a new light rail line can be destructive of the local economy, hurting businesses as work on the line disrupts power, blocks access to stores and eliminates parking. Several cities have developed successful mitigation programs over the years to help these businesses survive the hardship during construction and then thrive once the line opens.

Three reports detailing those mitigation efforts and offering recommendations for creating future mitigation programs have been added to the Best Practices.

"Light Rail Construction: Mitigation of Business Interruption" is survey of methods used in Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Portland, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City light rail projects. The July 21, 2006, report was written for the Gulf Coast Institute by David Crossley, Jay Blazek Crossley, Rick Cagney and Geri Wells. 

"As with road and freeway construction, light rail construction can have a negative impact on local small businesses and can change the dynamic of the business climate within which those businesses were created," the authors note. "But a growing toolkit of tested mitigation practices can significantly reduce those impacts, and prepare businesses for new successes once construction ends and rail service begins."

"Light Rail Transit Construction Impact Mitigation Strategies: Case Studies and Recommendations for the Central Corridor" considered mitigation efforts utilized throughout the construction of LRT in Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, Houston and San Jose. The report was written by Reuben R. Collins as part of a Master of Urban and Regional Planning Degree Requirements The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs The University ofMinnesota

The report also includes assessments of mitigation effectiveness by project public outreach coordinators regarding the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies. The final section provides a summary and comparison of efforts used in the seven cities along with a set of recommendations for the Central Corridor LRT in the Twin Cities.

"Results of the Supplemental Mititgation Assistance Program on Businesses Impacted by Light Rail Construction in the Rainier Valley" explores the success of efforts help businesses survive the five-year construction project. The report was written by Alex Krieg, a candidate for Masters in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Florida.

Rainier Valley Community Development Fund was founded in 2002 to manage $50 million established by the city of Seattle, King County and Sound Transit.

To minimize the impact of the five-year construction project, the fund provided grants to businesses that lost net revenues or were relocated.  This Supplemental Mitigation Asistance program disbursed more than $15 million.

The report identifies the lessons learned and best practices of the program. The report includes recommendations for organizations, neighborhoods and cities that find themselves in a similar situation.

"AN 85 percent survival rate for primarlily small, independent, ethnic- and immigrant-owned businesses in the face of a massive infrastructure construction roject speaks to the success of the program," the report notes. "Avoiding massive business closures and vacant storefronts was achieved, and maintaining the diversity and character of the businesses, while allow them to benefit from the opening of Central Link is a tremendous accomplishment. In this respect, the SMA program can be judged only as an unqualified success."