Project planners for the Central Corridor light-rail transit line will head into closed-door sessions Wednesday with officials from the University of Minnesota.
The two parties are trying to settle a dispute over vibrations and electromagnetic interference from the proposed trains. The U has sued over the project, and a judge has set a trial date for September.
But the U and the Metropolitan Council say they're optimistic they can avoid a trial. Mark Rotenberg, the U's general counsel, said the two parties could enter mediation if this week's negotiations fall short.
"The Met Council has been unable until now to come to some resolution on how to protect the university's research corridor," Rotenberg said. "We see mediation as one way the parties may be able to come to an agreement. It's just an option we've suggested for many, many months."
Met Council chairman Peter Bell said he's less eager to enter mediation because the time needed to bring a third party up to speed on technical issues could delay the project.
"Many people view mediation as a magic bullet. I don't," Bell said. "There are some very difficult issues yet to be resolved. I'm not sure that the U's positions will change as a result of mediation, or the Met Council's position will change."
Bell says the U needs to be mindful of keeping the project on time and on budget. But the U says it's not satisfied with the Met Council's assurances that the research facilities will be protected from the trains' electromagnetic interference.
The Met Council plans to start major construction on the 11-mile, $957 million corridor connecting St. Paul to Minneapolis in August.