Reasonable light-rail request

The University’s lawsuit against Met Council reflects research threats.

Alicia Smith and Missy Gettel

In the next few weeks, as the University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council seek to reach a settlement out of court regarding the light-rail transit lawsuit the University filed Sept. 22, there will be a significant amount of noise in the media attempting to show that the University is unreasonable in its requests. As student leaders who have authored successfully passed Minnesota Student Association resolutions regarding light-rail transit through our campus, we feel it is our duty to speak out to inform those who are not familiar with the needs of the University, our student body and our surrounding community. Our University âÄî the stateâÄôs premier research engine, the center of technological development, the catalyst for economic advancement and a seat of knowledge in the region âÄî must protect the assets that allow for these benefits to exist in the first place. Based on this reasonable goal, we have five requests for the Met Council: 1. That the Met Council more carefully outline vibration mitigation strategies for 32 labs in 15 campus buildings along the Washington Avenue corridor. 2. That the Met Council examine the potential impacts of electromagnetic interference in labs in 10 buildings along the corridor. 3. That the Met Council lay out a construction plan that will minimize disturbance to the thousands of students, staff, faculty and visitors that learn, teach and work here (the University is one of the most densely populated campuses in the nation). 4. That the Met Council make plans for the preservation of the buildings and character of the UniversityâÄôs historic Northrop Mall and Knoll districts, and preserve their connection to the Mississippi River, as outlined in the Minnesota Constitution and the UniversityâÄôs Land Grant Charter. 5. That the Met Council provide a long-term environmental monitoring strategy to measure, in real time, how the UniversityâÄôs infrastructure will be affected in the long term. Let there be no confusion: the University wants light-rail transit to succeed. University students, faculty and staff that use the light rail would compose 35 percent of the expected ridership. Two fallacies currently exist about the lawsuit. One is that the University is unreasonable in its requests; however, the University has donated, not sold, land for the right-of-way, and furthermore, has spent millions of dollars to help the Met Council in its light rail design and mitigation strategies for campus. The other fallacy is that delay of the project would sound the death knell for the light-rail project as a whole, but we will come to an agreement soon that will work for both parties. Additionally, it is the duty of the Metropolitan Council to serve the taxpayers and the citizens of Minneapolis and St. Paul by carefully assessing major needs of institutions as critical as our University. Construction has started in St. Paul, money and tens of thousands of man-hours have been spent on planning and we reiterate that the University wants this light rail. The Central Corridor will not die, but just as importantly, neither will the University. As students who have a monetary and educational stake in our institution, you can judge for yourselves the importance of the UniversityâÄôs lawsuit.