All the buzz

The Metropolitan Council must address University concerns over Central Corridor light-rail vibrations.

According to a recent report by University officials, the Central Corridor light-rail line slated to run through Washington Avenue could negatively impact more than 80 research labs. Besides bringing a convenient, clean and quick new mode of transportation to campus, the light rail, with its 265,000-pound trains, could bring levels of vibration and electromagnetic interference that threaten expensive equipment and research facilities, some only 30 feet from the rail line. The University would like to see a vibrations-reducing floating slab installed under certain portions of the line, but Met Council chairman Peter Bell argued that such a mitigation measure could put federal funding, which will cover half the project cost, in jeopardy. This is because the Federal Transit Authority has a fixed formula that uses a project cost-per-rider index to determine eligibility for grants. If the Met Council were to cede to the UniversityâÄôs demands, the cost-per-rider could get too high, making the project ineligible for federal funding. But in a process this bureaucratic, which involves local, state and federal governments, fluidity is part of the system. It is nothing but speculation when the Met Council says the University could derail federal funding. As the project sponsor, it is Met CouncilâÄôs job to âÄúidentify where there are impacts and develop mitigation measures to respond to those impacts,âÄù said Tim Mulcahy, Vice President of Research at the University of Minnesota. To turn a cold shoulder to a University aiming to protect the publicâÄôs multi-million dollar research investments represents gross negligence on the part of the Met Council, which has shown a willingness to iron out similar concerns in the past. Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Council signed an agreement with Minnesota Public Radio to guarantee the use of advanced technology to cushion recording studios from noise and vibrations. The Met Council must exhibit similar flexibility with the University of Minnesota.