Shoua Lee: Transitions: University Ave

Shoua Lee of the Met Council is interviewed by Mustaf Nur and Kong Lor

Photos by: Kenny Lee
Editing by: Anthony Em
Transcription by: Devonte Miller


Hi, my name is Mustaf Nur. I'm from Gordon Parks High School. Could you please tell me your name and job title?

My name is Shoua Lee, and my title at the Metropolitan Council is the Senior Outreach Coordinator.

Could you describe, how did you interact with community stakeholders and businesses along the central corridor?

I’ve been with the Met Council since 2007. I worked with a team of others who went out to the community, and it was our job to inform stakeholders, residents, and businesses — advocates as well — about the light rail. Inform them about what was the timeline, the budget, details about road design, station design —anything they might have questions about.

How was the light rail project funded?

The light rail project was funded though federal funds, though the Federal Transit Administration, as well as local funds through Hennepin and Ramsey County railroad authorities and CTIB, which is the County Transit Improvement Board.

Why was University Avenue chosen for the light rail construction?

Ramsey County did an alternatives analysis, and so that's where they actually looked at the different possible alignments. And from that analysis they were able to determine which ones made the most sense, and then they did a draft environmental impact statement as well. And then from there they chose the type of transit that they would be using — rail over bus rapid transit — and then they defined the alignment and all of the stations.

How do you think the light rail will affect St. Paul?

I think it'll be a huge benefit to St. Paul. I think it'll bring a lot of people to the area — not only visitors from afar, but also moving people throughout the corridor, students who live in Frogtown who may need to get to the U, people who need to get to doctor's appointments, people who really rely on transit as their only way of getting around, and also people [for] whom transit is another option — a more environmentally sound option.

Could you reflect on the success and challenges of the last five years regarding the light rail construction in the central corridor?

One of the big challenges was dispelling myths. People thought that the government was going to come in and tear down all their homes and their businesses. So we had to assure them that that wasn't the case. It was really informing people and telling them the actual truth.

Another piece was really convincing especially business owners to prepare themselves for construction — connecting them to groups like the Neighborhood Development Center so that they could prepare themselves to maybe expand their business or try different ways of marketing during construction.

As far as the successes, I would say the three addition stations at Hamline, Victoria, and Western were a huge success and that was, you know, taking the input from the community and hearing from them that they really wanted these additional stations put in. And then we also listened to the community about wanting access from both sides of the platform and so we change the designs of the stations according to what we were hearing.

I'd say another really great success was working on the public art at the stations — hearing from the communities about what's important to them in their own individual neighborhoods — the little ball field over by Lexington and that kind of thing. So you got to hear a lot of history and be really inspired by that history that the people maintain, and then being able to integrate that into the art at the stations was really great. And one of my favorite projects was the Victoria station, because that has the faces of Rondo. Gordon Parks — his image — is at that station, rather prominently, and that was one of the successes I think of the project.

Made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.