12.5.08

U of MN Won't Compromise on the Central Corridor?

Here are the latest meeting notes from the U of MN on the Central Corridor:

Faculty Consultative Committee
Thursday, May 1, 2008

12:00 – 2:15
7 Mondale Hall

Present:

Gary Balas (chair), Nancy Carpenter, Carol Chomsky, Shawn Curley, Dan Dahlberg, William Durfee, Marti Hope Gonzales, Michael Hancher, Carolyn Hayes, Lois Heller, Emily Hoover, Jeff Kahn, Mary Jo Kane, Judith Martin, Martin Sampson, Jennifer Windsor

Absent:

Barbara Elliott, Nelson Rhodus, Geoffrey Sirc, Becky Yust

Guests:

Associate Vice President Donna Peterson, Todd Iverson (University Relations); President Robert Bruininks

1. LRT Update

Professor Balas convened the meeting at 12:05 and welcomed Associate

Vice President Peterson and Mr. Iverson to provide an update on the
Central Corridor light-rail projects. The Committee discussed with them
at length the politics of the process as well as the projected
mitigation costs if the trains run at grade on Washington Avenue and
other vehicular traffic is diverted to other routes.

Subsequent to the meeting, Professor Balas wrote a letter to
Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell transmitting the following
resolution from the Committee.

Because light rail transportation is important to the future of the
University of Minnesota, the Faculty Consultative Committee, which is
the elected executive committee of the University's Faculty Senate,
strongly supports the Central Corridor Light Rail project. Knowing that
about 30% of the riders on the Central Corridor line will be University
students, faculty, staff, and visitors, we welcome this efficient and
environmentally progressive way of traveling to and from the campus.

We also strongly endorse the Regents’ preference for the northern
alignment. The Committee joins the Regents in that preference because
several major disadvantages would impair an alternative route along
Washington Avenue:

-- The physical safety of our students and staff could be jeopardized by
a Washington Avenue route for light rail. Currently many thousands of
students and staff cross Washington Avenue each day, at six major
intersections on and near campus. The frequent passing of on-grade
trains at those busy intersections, even at the slow speeds that would
be required given the population density in the campus area, would
present an unacceptable risk.

-- The significant permanent disruption of traffic on Washington Avenue
that would result from running surface trains on that road would damage
the University community. The diversion of approximately 25,000 cars and
1,500 buses to surrounding streets and neighborhoods would be
unacceptable. Most threatening is the negative impact on both
emergency-vehicle and patient access to the hospital and University
clinics (some 500,000 visits per year). The northern alignment would
avoid those harmful consequences.

-- A Washington Avenue at-grade route for light rail would impose upon
the University extraordinary costs for inevitable traffic-mitigation
projects. The University has no budgeted resources for such highway
projects and can not be expected to divert tuition resources from
education to highway infrastructure.

For these and other reasons we strongly endorse the recommendation of
the Board of Regents that the Central Corridor line be routed along the
northern alignment.

As I stated earlier, the notion that 1) the train will endanger pedestrians is ludicrous. Currently thousands of cars are traveling 40 mph down the Washington Avenue corridor as they flow into campus. Not only would the LRT be far, far safer, it would probably make the streets in the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly, and less likely to be the kind of place where people get assaulted.

And 2), the possible bus/transit option along Washington Avenue is on the table, and would allow emergency vehicles far easier access to the hospital then they currently enjoy. Meanwhile, customers going to and from the hospital have good access to it from the I-94 on-ramp along Fulton and Delaware Streets, as do all the Washington Avenue businesses.

Finally, during their recent email to the MetCouncil, the U's lawyers could only point to one loading dock that would have to be moved with this new alignment. Judging by the evidence so far provided, the "mitigation costs" will probably not be that substantial, given the magnitude of the project and the $200M price tag of a LRT tunnel.

The real story: The U of MN is apparently standing in the way, alongside our Governor, of a long-term sustainable transit investment that would benefit the local economy while improving the streetlife and walkability of the campus.

2 comments:

Stephen Gross said...

It's too bad the leadership at UMN has taken this position. I'm a student there, and I walk along Washington all the time. Cars go plenty fast already. People cross at the crosswalks. It's not rocket science. A train will NOT be a problem.

momo said...

Every time I hear this ridiculous assertion it makes me question the motives behind the whole boondoggle. How many busy cities have streetcar lines? Cars are much more dangerous to pedestrians and bikers.