Healthy Communities Count! logoHealthy Communities and Central Corridor Light Rail Transit
March 2010

Many residents, community groups, and government agencies are working hard to put together plans and projects related to the proposed Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (CCLRT) line that will run along University Avenue between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Could the CCLRT line and these associated plans and projects impact the health of people living and working nearby? Is it possible to tailor these plans and projects so that they improve people’s health as well as redevelop these neighborhoods?

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What’s a healthy community?
A healthy community continuously creates and improves both its physical and social environments, helping people to support one another in aspects of daily life and to develop to their fullest potential. Healthy places are those designed and built to improve the quality of life for all people who live, work, worship, learn, and play within their borders -- where every person is free to make choices amid a variety of healthy, available, accessible, and affordable options.
      U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2010 report

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What does the proposed CCLRT have to do with my health?
Part of planning and building the CCLRT includes testing soil for contaminants in proposed construction areas. Any construction or re-development in areas with contamination will need to protect people from coming into contact with the contamination.

The construction of the CCLRT is expected to cause many changes in the nearby businesses and neighborhoods. These changes could affect people’s health in good or bad ways. For example, does the new construction make it easier for people to walk or bike? Making it easier to walk or bike increases the potential for physical activity and decreases people’s risk for a number of chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease.

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How can we tell if the CCLRT has a good impact on our health?
One way to measure the impacts of the CCLRT is to count factors that are directly or indirectly related to health before the line is constructed and then again a few years later. Looking at these factors before the line is constructed also can give communities and developers ideas about changes that can be made to increase the overall chances that the work will have a good impact on people’s health.

One example is counting the number of children with higher levels of lead in their blood. Homes built before 1978 may have lead-based paint on the indoor walls, trim or outside siding. Children are attracted to flaking paint chips and may eat them or breathe in dust from older paint. Lead can cause learning disabilities, behavior changes and, when a child has a lot of lead in their bodies, coma or death. It’s important to remove any sources of lead from a child’s surroundings.

We can track the number of children who have been tested for lead and have higher levels of lead in their blood. Then, we can check next year to see if the number of kids with higher lead levels has gone down. We can also compare the numbers of kids living near the CCLRT with other kids in St. Paul and with the entire state. We can also count the number of homes that have been checked for sources of lead and then cleaned up and track that in the future or compare it with other areas.

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What things would we look at?

  • Do children have a safe way to walk to school?
  • Can we buy a variety of healthy foods in our neighborhood?
  • Is the number of kids with high levels of lead in their blood going down?
  • How many homes have had lead-based paint removed?
  • Is the quality of air we breathe getting better?
  • Are there safe and fun parks for kids to play and adults to enjoy?
  • Is there space for community gardens?
  • Are there fewer vacant businesses?
  • Are the crime rates going down?

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Why is the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) interested?
The mission of MDH is to protect, maintain and improve the health of all Minnesotans. In the past, we have been involved in many city sites, looking at toxic chemicals that might be found at the sites and recommending ways to prevent or reduce the chances that people would come into contact with those toxic chemicals. However, many other environmental factors can also affect people’s health.

We’d like to work with communities to figure out which factors related to the CCLRT might affect the health of people living and working nearby. Then, we’d like to measure those factors now, make some recommendations that would improve people’s health and measure again in the future to see if those factors make a positive impact for a healthier community.

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Printable information sheet: Healthy Communities and the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (PDF: 49KB/2 pages)

For more information
For more information, please contact the Healthy Communities Count! Contacts.

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Updated Friday, January 31, 2014 at 08:43AM