U, Met Council avoid federal lawsuit battle


The University of Minnesota will not file a federal lawsuit against the Metropolitan Council over the Central Corridor light-rail line after its 180-day deadline to file passed Monday. 

The decision came after a closed Board of Regents meeting. A lawsuit could have been submitted under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The news evoked optimism from the Met Council, with spokesman Steve Dornfeld saying members believe significant progress has been made on the debated issues.

Both Dornfeld and Kathleen O’Brien, vice president of University Services, said the Met Council and the University have reached agreements on the transit line running down Washington Avenue and essential agreements over vibration and electromagnetic interference mitigation standards.

However, there is still disagreement over damages if mitigation standards are exceeded.

O’Brien said that monetary damages would act as a “stick” used to spur action from the Met Council if the mitigation

solutions agreed upon by the two parties are ineffective. Mitigation solutions include copper wiring to negate electromagnetic interference from the line and a special base to minimize vibrations.

However, Dornfeld said that “payment of monetary damages from one governmental body to another in the absence of any real harm” is not the answer.

Moving forward, the Met Council hopes to secure federal approval to begin final design on the corridor by the end of March and to proceed with initial

construction by the end of the year, using available local finances. Federal funding is expected to be decided upon by September.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who held a handful of meetings to mediate between the two, said recent federal action is a fortuitous signal for the line’s progress.

“The project probably was going to move forward,” Hausman said. “The University would have always had a little bit of a black eye, so they’ve helped their own PR, I think.”