LRT: On the wrong track down Washington Avenue


As the President of the Stadium Village Commercial Association, it was with dismay that I read the June 1 Voices article, Keeping the “U” on track. I am confused by most of the piece and initially thought perhaps it was intended to be satirical.

Opinion: LRT: On the wrong track down Washington Avenue

Perhaps Conrad deFiebre doesn’t know the difference between a minute clinic and a level II trauma center. The trauma designation that the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview is anticipating in late 2008 or early 2009 will meet the verification standards of the American College of Surgeons. So, in addition to being able to provide typical services for the sick or injured, this designation signifies they are equipped to deal with a majority of trauma patients. Designation standards include having the capacity to respond to biological, chemical and radiological crises and provide services to a specified number of patients in a specific time frame. The 24/7 services and staff either on site or accessible are other specialized features of a medical facility of this level.

Frequently those needing treatment are transported by ambulance and despite the convenience of light rail it wouldn’t be a viable option in those cases. I would not want my loved ones who are being transported by ambulance to a trauma center to lose precious time while waiting for the train to pass. If someone is notified that a friend or family member has been transported to a trauma center, I envision a sense of urgency in getting there and the reality is that not all patients or those visiting them will even be near access to the LRT route.

Those requiring frequent visits to the University of Minnesota hospital, such as bone marrow transplant and other transplant patients, typically are hypersensitive to exposure to large crowds and possible exposure to infection. Not a viable option for them either. I question how the typical light rail users getting to and from work, the campus or social activities would feel about sharing their commute with large numbers of sick and potentially contagious passengers on their way for a diagnosis. It doesn’t strike me as a good idea.

My primary reason for responding is the final paragraph that indicates that communities that lie in the path of the proposed route and organizations representing them are “all on board.” As the president of the only business group that is directly impacted by the choice of an at-grade line on Washington Avenue, I am on record with the Star Tribune and in letters to the mayor of Minneapolis, Chair Peter Bell of the Met Council, Governor Tim Pawlenty and other local bodies as being in opposition.

After initial resistance to a Washington Ave route, our organization was cautiously optimistic that early plans that included a tunnel on Washington Ave SE offered a feasible option that would not destroy the entire business community. When removal of the tunnel was the first major change (due to financial reasons), we were supportive of the University in its efforts to explore the Northern Alignment.

For anyone familiar with the Stadium Village area, it is clearly a bustling urban neighborhood. There is 24-hour pedestrian traffic and people moving en masse between classes and to and from sporting events and campus activities. We place the safety of our community members and visitors as a high priority. An at-grade train through this area we contend is a safety risk.

To maintain a business district there must be access to our area. Limiting parking will impact customers and suppliers. As dollars are the driving force behind this plan there needs to be more discussion of the impact on tax decreases when business is down or potentially fails altogether. It is not fiscally responsible to proceed with submission of a plan if it does not include the additional signage and road maintenance costs that will be required when traffic is forced off a primary artery and onto side streets which were not designed for this quantity of traffic. I have also been unable to locate information regarding financing of additional public safety resources which will be necessary to discourage loitering and vagrancy in a proposed pedestrian mall setting.

It seems that our “vision of the perfect” was the same as the University and we felt as though both the University and our community’s needs were not being listened to. Chair Bell confirmed this in a Star Tribune article on February 25 “Federal officials encourage listening, but they don’t provide the money or mechanisms for many of the desires to come true.” Little gratification comes from sharing your ideas with a council that feels powerless to implement necessary changes.

In summary, the two main entities located on this portion of the route have many concerns regarding the negative impact to the area and those we serve. The assertion that the rest of the state and other neighborhoods and community groups are “all on board” in no way lessens the anxiety we feel. People may like and support the Washington Avenue route because it is good for their community and they will not experience the negative repercussions from it. Why is it difficult for those outside of Stadium Village to accept that those of us who will bare the burden aren’t as delighted? We may ultimately have to accept a train down Washington Avenue, but we do not have to like it, and we are on record as saying this is not the best plan for the campus or this community.

Nancy Rose Pribyl is president of the Stadium Village Commercial Association.