Metropolitan Council and U still in conflict over LRT

The Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota have yet to reach an agreement about the Central Corridor light rail.

James Nord

University of Minnesota and Metropolitan Council representatives met with a group of public officials Thursday at the state Capitol to provide an update on Central Corridor Light Rail negotiations. The discussion was the second meeting held by Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, to help ensure the corridorâÄôs completion. Hausman said she feels responsible for the project as author of a bill that would fund part of the line and because a large amount of taxpayer money and state funding is at stake. At the first meeting on Nov. 11, the Met Council and the University set a tentative Dec. 1 deadline to resolve their issues, but they were unable to reach an agreement. They now hope to have a deal done by around Dec. 15. University administrators are concerned electromagnetic interference and excessive vibration from the train will affect the sensitive research labs on Washington Avenue, and have been working on mitigating any possible damage for almost a year and a half, Vice President of University Services Kathleen OâÄôBrien said. The University also wants to make sure any agreement with the Met Council includes liquidated damages, which allows them to receive compensation if a court decides the Met Council broke the contract. If it was included in a deal, the University could be compensated by as much as $25,000 per day, OâÄôBrien said. Both the Met Council and the University reported substantial progress since the last meeting on Nov. 11, but cautioned there are still issues that need to be resolved. âÄúWe are working our darndest to get this done as thoroughly and as well as we can to meet all of our needs,âÄù OâÄôBrien said, âÄúto make sure that we have a really well-operating Central Corridor line thatâÄôs within the budget and that weâÄôre protecting the research of the University.âÄù In order for the project to be potentially included in President Barack ObamaâÄôs budget, officials in the Federal Transit Administration must be convinced the project is set to proceed by roughly Dec. 15, Met Council Chair Peter Bell said. The dilemma prompted Hausman to ask, âÄúWhat are we going to do?âÄù âÄúAround here [in the Legislature] âĦ we scramble like heck and we work all night because a deadline means a deadline,âÄù Hausman said. A group of legislators and public officials, including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL- Crystal, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter Mclaughlin, and union leaders, among others, questioned OâÄôBrien and Bell on their progress. Bell and OâÄôBrien said they lacked the technical data regarding the tolerable levels of electromagnetic interference and vibrations required to make a decision at the last meeting, but now that the data is available, a technical solution is possible, and in the works. The University also agreed to drop their lawsuit against the Met Council once an agreement has been reached, OâÄôBrien said. âÄúI am optimistic that the narrow bridges that we have can be closed,âÄù Bell said.