Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More on Central Corridor

From MinnPost:

The current impasse centers on the University's refusal to give the Met Council permission to start work next month preparing campus side streets for construction of a planned light rail line connecting the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Once trains are rolling on Washington Avenue on the campus' East Bank, traffic must take other streets. At the U's request, the Met Council had planned to begin work on the new routes now, before the main construction starts.

Granting the temporary easement should be "a no-brainer," said McLaughlin. Work on the rail line itself can't begin until there's a permanent easement, so the two sides have plenty of time to forge an agreement about the steps that will be taken to deal with the U's concerns about protecting its research equipment.

The contractor that submitted the winning bid to the Met Council can do the work for $1 million less than was expected, but the bid is only good through April 27. The planning agency can't sign the contract until it has a temporary easement from the University authorizing the work. The U won't grant the permit because it isn't convinced that sensitive laboratory equipment in buildings along Washington will be protected from vibrations and noise.

During the course of dozens of meetings subsequently brokered by McLaughlin and his cross-river colleague, Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough, the Met Council agreed to pay to mitigate vibrations and other problems the line might pose for the University, and to not start service until after tests have determined that any harm has been mitigated. If there are problems, "or even the threat of damage," the agency said it will pay to fix them, McLaughlin said.

"What's driving me crazy is that the two sides can't find their way through that," growled McLaughlin. "The question in play here is what happens if there is no direct harm. How much should they be forced to do or to pay if the standards are not met?"

It's an important question, McLaughlin added, but there's no good reason why the U should hold the temporary easement hostage before there are hard and firm answers.

McLaughlin and McDonough aren't the first informal mediators to throw up their hands in disgust. Last fall, concerned that the project was about to miss a crucial deadline for federal funding, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, tried unsuccessfully to get the warring factions to come to an agreement. She said she now worries that even if the mediation is successful, the easement won't be the last hurdle the U puts up.

"Though it seems like a minor blip, it now shows a pattern of an uncooperative partner," she said.

If the current impasse isn't resolved very quickly, Met Council officials warned last week, the current construction bid will lapse. Even if it doesn't, any delay in starting could mean the work can't be completed on the timeline the U requested, which had the traffic-snarling tasks completed by the time school starts next fall.
Not coincidentally, President Bruininks' call for a new covenant with the state and an educational renaissance was declared dead on arrival at the state capitol yesterday...

Anyone surprised after the above performance?

Added later:

A comment on the Minnpost article:

(#3) On April 7, 2010, Author Editor says:

Whatever happened to the MN institution of higher education, enlightenment, and progressive leadership called the University of Minnesota? Whatever happened to pioneering American ingenuity, the MN 'can-do' forward thinking, and the art of political compromise and synergy applied to surmountable and/or solvable issues or problems?

If the UofM can research problems of finding alternative/synthetic energy sources; finding new medical cures or procedures; or, advancing scientific and engineering breakthroughs in the myriads of disciplines then why the blustering inane ignorance and obstinacy with the planned LRT and Central Corridor?

Is this worthy of a world class institution; or, should I say, 'alleged' or 'ersatz'; of higher education and research. If MN engineering grads can silence and make stealthy nuclear submarines traversing the oceans; if MN science grads can put and navigate spacecraft in space or put spacecraft to the edge of the known universe; then, overcoming or solving any foreseen or thought up local LRT/mass transit issues should be a walk in the park!

Why is the University being so backward and reactionary? It is time more enlightened minds to lead the way to compromise and problem solutions before the whole Central Corridor grinds to a halt from political idiocy and ineptitude.

The University should practice what it teaches about forward progressive thinking and technology. Lead the way to making our communities better. The time for UofM progressive leadership is now.

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