U partners with Hennepin County

The program will study new transit lines such as the Central Corridor line.

Anna Ewart

On Aug. 24, the University and Hennepin County signed the Master Cooperative Agreement, which will simplify relations between the two.

Among the projects that will benefit from this agreement is a multiyear transportation research program.

The program will study the impact of introducing a major transit way into a community, such as the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line that would run through campus.

Kathie Doty, the liaison between the University and Hennepin County, said the MCA has made it possible for people at the University and Hennepin County to bypass the long process of making legal agreements for each of their collaborations.

She said details such as ownership of intellectual property and liability will not need to be negotiated during the period of this agreement.

When researchers from the two parties want to work together, they will only need to do the things necessary to develop a project, she said, such as identifying the budget and people involved.

Doty also said that the transportation research will be much further-reaching than the University or Hennepin County imagined.

“We have established a research program that’s going to be a multiyear program,” she said. “They are in the process now of hiring research assistants and beginning that work.”

Research modules will assess land-use changes, housing mix and the impact of property values near transit ways, Doty said.

“We started with two research modules,” she said, “but now we’re thinking we have more like 20.”

The Metropolitan Council is responsible for the design and construction of the Central Corridor line.

It is working with the University, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin County, Dakota County and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The University has general principles for the design of this light-rail line involving the enhancement of the University’s identity, functionality and aesthetics, while minimizing disruptions, according to the University’s Web site. According to the Metropolitan Council’s Web site, the Central Corridor will cover an 11-mile stretch between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. It will meet up with the existing Hiawatha line at the Metrodome Station and share a station with the Northstar commuter rail line.

The price is currently estimated at $930 million and the line should be constructed between 2010 and 2013.

If approved, the Federal Transit Administration will fund half of the project’s cost. The other half will be split between the state and Ramsey and Hennepin counties.

The corridor is slated to go through campus on University and Washington avenues, with a station on the East and West Banks. The portion of the corridor going through campus could entail the complete reconstruction of University Avenue.

Although the planning process has been going on for longer than a year, there are still opportunities for the public to have its say.

Jessica Hill, community outreach coordinator for the Metropolitan Council, said people can and are expressing their opinions.

“This is the only time, right now, that people can have a comment and make a difference because nothing’s built yet,” she said. “People are very excited. We’ve been getting a lot of, ‘Why isn’t it getting built faster?’ My response is that someone needs to pay for it.”