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Black Community Fights Rail Project

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - A historic black neighborhood in St. Paul will be displaced for the third time in 60 years if the federal and city governments build a light rail system as planned, the NAACP and community groups claim in Federal Court. The groups say the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the Equal Access to Justice Act, and will lead to "higher taxes, higher rents, the physical division of their community, lost parking, business interruption and displacement through gentrification."

They also object to the "noise, pollution, vibration, lost parking, and increased risk of accidents" they say the project will bring.

The projected $1 billion, 11-mile light rail will connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The plaintiffs say the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration and the local Metropolitan Council failed to address concerns about the project's adverse impacts or how to mitigate them.

Plaintiffs say their concerns were no address when the final environmental impact statement was issued in August 2009. The EIS was approved but the plaintiffs want it rewritten.

The predominantly low-income Rondo community was fractured in the 1950s by construction of an interstate, and splintered again in the 1970s by government-backed urban renewal programs. The precarious financial situations most residents face makes them particularly vulnerable to displacement.

The plaintiffs are represented by Thomas DeVincke with Bonner & Borhart in Minneapolis.

Plaintiffs include the Community Stabilization Project, the Aurora/Saint Anthony Neighborhood Development Corp., a Baptist church, businesses and individuals.

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