U set to formally drop Met Council lawsuit

The Board of Regents will vote Wednesday to formally end legal action over the Central Corridor light-rail line.

Andre Eggert

The University of Minnesota is set to drop its lawsuit against the Metropolitan Council over the Central Corridor, pending the approval of a resolution by the Board of Regents on Wednesday.

The resolution addresses the issues the University raised against the Met Council regarding vibration and electromagnetic interference interrupting research.

Regents Chairman Clyde Allen said the board has not fully examined the resolution yet, but it appears to meet the conditions the University wanted to see.

“We’re delighted that the process of negotiation to reach an agreement has been concluded,” Allen said. “We look forward to … getting back to other work.”

The resolution has University President Bob Bruininks’ recommendation and is expected to pass.

 “The University and the Met Council have been working together to achieve mutual goals to improve the transportation system in the metropolitan area and to protect the University’s research enterprise and our campus community,” Kathleen O’Brien, vice president for University services, said in a press release.

The official resolution, a roughly 40-page document, is being kept closed to the public until it is passed. However, should the resolution pass, agreements made would include:

·       Installation of floating slabs under Washington Avenue to absorb train-caused vibration.

·       A dual-split power supply running along both tracks to cancel out electromagnetic interference from the trains.

·       A framework for light rail construction regulating noise, dust and vibration.

The process has been difficult for everyone involved, Met Council Chairman Peter Bell said in a statement.  “However, the final product is an agreement that will protect sensitive University research facilities, while keeping the Central Corridor project on time and within budget.”

The lawsuit against the Met Council, filed Sept. 22, 2009, has dogged the Central Corridor project and put federal funding on hold.

The project faces two other lawsuits from Minnesota Public Radio and a neighborhood group, however federal authorities have been most concerned with the University’s lawsuit.

“This was the one [lawsuit] that, at least the signals we always got from the FTA (Federal Transit Administration), they were most concerned about,” said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who is close to the project.

The agreement also requests state funding for relocation of sensitive research equipment and facilities, Hausman said. Previous estimates of the requested funds were in the range of $12 million to $20 million, and the state and the University would split the cost, she said.

The lawsuits facing the Central Corridor show long-standing flaws in the planning process, Hausman said, and there was a concern that project changes would threaten federal funding.

Some work for the Central Corridor began this year, however major construction is expected in 2011 with the closing of Washington Avenue as it is changed into a pedestrian-friendly transit mall.

The line is scheduled to open in 2014.