Mediation next step in dispute over Highway 55

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Albrecht ordered mediation between protesters and state officials late Tuesday, regarding the re-routing of Hwy. 55, the precursor to the light-rail system.
“We asked for the mediator,” said Jordan Kushner, an attorney for the road opponents, “so we’re glad the judge ordered it.”
U.S. Department of Justice representative Gustavo Gaynett will mediate the discussions beginning Feb. 18. Gaynett is from the community relations service department and was appointed by Albrecht.
The mediation is not binding and the judge has not ordered a resolution, said Jennifer Weist, Albrecht’s clerk.
“He just wants them to talk,” she said.
Opponents of the project are protesting the re-route of Hwy. 55 through what they claim is sacred Dakota Indian land.
Suits were filed in both state and federal courts on Dec. 24 by protesters. Both Albrecht and U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum rejected the request to temporarily halt the project last month, but Albrecht did order further archeological testing of the site.
Another suit to stop the construction was filed by the Park and River Alliance and, after an unfavorable ruling last summer, is now in appeals court.

— Erin Ghere