Met Council airs frustration with U of M over light rail

Hiawatha train
A light rail train, moving through downtown Minneapolis.
MPR File Photo/Tom Weber

Metropolitan Council frustration with the University of Minnesota over light rail emerged at a meeting Wednesday in St. Paul.

Met Council Chairman Peter Bell is upset the university has not agreed to grant easements for preliminary construction work on the Central Corridor light rail line. Bell said in one case, the temporary easement is for work requested by the university.

"If the U cannot give us a temporary easement to do some work that they would like us to do save the project money and prevent delay, that point in and of itself makes me increasingly pessimistic that we will be able to negotiate substantive and numerous issues that we have," Bell said.

University officials say the Met Council requests include permanent easements for what amounts to $6 million of university property, a decision that needs approval from the university's Board of Regents.

University of Minnesota officials say there's still time to avoid construction delays and higher costs building the Central Corridor light rail line.

University Vice President Kathleen O'Brien said there is still time to work things out: "I believe both the line will be built and University of Minnesota research will be protected and we can get this work done in the next month."

The dispute with the university notwithstanding, Met Council officials today announced the first heavy construction bids were let for light rail construction on a section of Robert Street next the state capitol in St. Paul.

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