U can’t afford to miss the train

Light-rail discussions have gotten out of hand and time is running out.

Compromise is the art of making sure no one gets exactly what they want, and itâÄôs time for compromise on the Central Corridor Light Rail project. The ongoing debate between the University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council over the proposed Washington Avenue light-rail segment now threatens the timely implementation of the entire line. If these two parties donâÄôt reach an agreement by December, the project risks losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money. At the very least, it risks costly project delay. On the whole, it remains unclear which party, if any, is to blame for the breakdown in negotiations. It is, however, clear that the debate has gone shamefully sour in the past months and that the time for lawsuits and quibbling is over. A recent exchange of letters between Met Council Chairman Peter Bell and Vice President of University Services Kathleen OâÄôBrien highlights the current tone: After an indignant summary of the UniversityâÄôs concerns, Bell concludes, âÄúI am not sure further negotiations with the University âĦ are possible unless and until the University abandons its request for the above stated items.âÄù OâÄôBrien, for her part, reiterates the UniversityâÄôs âÄúcommitment to strengthening the metropolitan transportation systemâÄù and calls for âÄúconstructive deliberationsâÄù without backing off the UniversityâÄôs demands for additional mitigation and compensation. University leaders and the Met Council have an opportunity today to de-escalate this mutually destructive negotiation as they meet with local lawmakers in St. Paul. With the impending federal deadline, they owe it to the public to get back on track and bring this conflict to a mutually undesirable resolution.