Tuesday, March 02, 2010

St. Paul LRT critic declines to file federal lawsuit

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Though it has a Minnesota state lawsuit filed, the University of Minnesota Monday said it wouldn’t add make its squabble with the St. Paul Central Corridor light rail line a federal case, at least for the present.

The university has objected to the routing of the $1 billion, 11-mile LRT route planned for the state capital, saying noise and vibrations could disrupt some of its research facilities and at times claiming student and pedestrian safety would be jeopardized. It previously had filed a state lawsuit in Hennepin County, across the Mississippi River from adjacent Ramsey County (St. Paul also serves as the Ramsey County seat).

But Monday’s announcement was hailed as “very, very good news” by Nancy Homans, a spokewoman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

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The university and the Metropolitan Council have clashed repeatedly in recent months over the Central Corridor, which will link up with existing Hiawatha Line LRT in Minneapolis. Rough agreement has been reached over addressing purported potential disturbances to sensitive research equipment by vibrations and electromagnetic fields generated by LRT. But a final accord has proved elusive.

Both sides are expected to enter "lockdown" negotiations, perhaps this week, officials said Monday. The stated goal of both sides is to emerge from such talks with a memorandum of understanding that will lead the university to withdraw its existing lawsuit.

Besides the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio also has filed suit, saying the Metropolitan Council has reneged on its commitment to protect the radio station from noise and vibrations caused by trains running along Cedar Street, close to its downtown St. Paul facility.

Critics of MPR, both locally and nationwide, have noted the seeming contradiction of public radio’s general support for light rail while (in MPR’s case) protesting its actual implementation, and have accused MPR of a Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) mindset.