Bullying shouldn’t derail light rail

Mediation should allow the U and Met Council to advance the Central Corridor.

by Kathleen O’Brien

As the Metropolitan CouncilâÄôs PR machine continues to create noise and smoke in their campaign against the University of Minnesota, I think itâÄôs important to note some major omissions in the Letter to the Editor from Steven Dornfeld in yesterdayâÄôs Minnesota Daily. From the beginning of the UniversityâÄôs discussions with the Met Council, we have simply had one request: The Central Corridor light-rail line does not harm the UniversityâÄôs research infrastructure along Washington Avenue Southeast. Hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment have been made in that corridor over decades. It helps attract more than $650 million in outside research grants each year and contains some of the most sensitive, sophisticated research equipment in the world. This is more than beakers and Bunsen burners; itâÄôs research at the molecular level on curing diseases, new sources of renewable energy and cutting-edge engineering. In the years of discussions between the University and the Met Council, significant progress has been made. In fact, we now know the train can indeed be built to operate on Washington Avenue Southeast and our research can be protected âÄî within the budget allotted for the Central Corridor. The Met Council, unfortunately, is refusing to commit to guarantees that their train will operate within certain reasonable standards. Mr. Dornfeld seems to think itâÄôs unreasonable to ask for that. When a multi-ton train is going to be going just 40 feet from a sensitive lab and thousands of students, this isnâÄôt too much to ask. Because of this disagreement, the University has asked to enter mediation five separate times since October 2009. Each time, the Met Council refused. Fortunately, both parties have now been court-ordered into mediation. Hopefully we can move beyond the Met CouncilâÄôs name-calling and campaign of public intimidation to find a way to advance this important public infrastructure project. Kathleen OâÄôBrien, Vice President University Services