The latest breakdown of negotiations over the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit project centers on the University of Minnesota's refusal to green-light summer construction on preparatory advanced traffic improvements across the East Bank campus.
When asked if the broader argument over mitigations and liability is related to the easement dispute, Vice President of University Services Kathleen O'Brien acknowledges that they are integrated. In both cases, she explains, the Metropolitan Council is failing to ensure sufficient protection of the University's operations and equipment. It's a fair expectation, though there's certainly room for compromise in the details.
The University isn't exactly being inspired to compromise, though. O'Brien explains that Met Council Chairman Peter Bell has systematically used public intimidation to put pressure on the University. O'Brien insists that bullying will not work. Bell has indeed used the press aggressively to portray University officials as obstructing civic progress at every opportunity.
Yet, even if the Met Council's approach amounts to bullying, the trouble is that their message has proven louder than the University's. The tide of public opinion has been turned against us, and we're being forced to spend precious political capital at a time when it's needed elsewhere.
As the process moves into court-ordered mediation, granting the construction easement would be prudent for the University. It would mollify a frustrated public, keep the project on schedule and reaffirm the University's commitment to progress.
In the big picture, damaged relationships or a tarnished reputation would prove more harmful to the University's mission than disrupted lab equipment.
- The Minnesota Daily
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