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The U and Light Rail

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From the Star-Tribune

U regents still insist on light-rail detour

By JEFF SHELMAN, Star Tribune

April 11, 2008

The University of Minnesota still wants to detour the proposed Central Corridor light rail line to the edge of campus, despite the Metropolitan Council's decision to send the train through one of its busiest streets.

On Friday, the university's Board of Regents reaffirmed a 2001 resolution that the "northern alignment" of the line is preferred over the current plans of running tracks at street level down Washington Avenue. That plan, the university says, would create traffic chaos and could cost the institution millions of dollars annually.

The university's preferred route would take the train north from Washington Avenue just east of the West Bank station. The train would cross the Mississippi River on a rebuilt Dinkytown bicycle bridge and through Dinkytown in the existing trench. The train would return to University Avenue just east of the under-construction TCF Bank Stadium.

"Without a tunnel under Washington Avenue, it doesn't work," Regent John Frobenius said. "It would simply create a dagger through the heart of the University of Minnesota."

-->[This is an irresponsible statement. See cartoon at top. There is plenty of evidence that this is simply not true. If the university ever does have to live with a pedestrian mall this statement will come back to haunt us.]

[Oh, and by the way, you might ask: Who is John Frobenius? From the U of M website:

"John Frobenius is a retired hospital administrator and served most recently as co-president for the CentraCare Health System in St. Cloud. Previously, he was an executive vice president and chief operating officer for St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. Frobenius, who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Minnesota, has served on numerous boards, including the American Hospital Association, the Minnesota Health Care Partnership, and the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce,"

Might he have even a little bias in favor of the U of M hospitals in this matter?]

University Vice President Kathleen O'Brien said the current plan could cause a 10 percent drop in business at the school's Academic Health Center -- an area of campus that would be more difficult to reach if cars are eliminated from Washington Avenue. That could cost the school millions annually.

---> [See cartoon above. This is akin to a statement like: If quarks can go faster than the speed of light, then I want to study quarks. The current plan - which is what? - will NOT cause a drop of 10% in the AHC's business. Aren't they in bed with Fairview? Isn't the Children's Hospital going to be on the other side of the river? Isn't access to Riverside better from 94? Are you telling me that the University couldn't do things to mitigate the impact of a pedestrian mall? As usual, if the facts don't support your argument, make a lot of noise and point elsewhere.]

In addition, university President Robert Bruininks said the school believes it would have to move several science research labs near Washington Avenue because of train vibrations. "That will run into the millions and millions of dollars," he said. "It will exceed $10 million to move them."

---> [Excuse me, sir... And how much did the scoreboard cost for the new stadium, a scoreboard that will be used six times a year? Wasn't that about...ten million dollars? You've gotten in the last two bonding sessions about half a billion dollars. You just reeled in 65 million dollars for the Cancer Center and have a two + billion dollar endowment? Time to wake up, Bob, and have some Free Trade coffee or better yet, Coke. I understand that things go better with Coke.]

The school also claims that the "northern alignment" would save between $16 million and $18 million in construction costs and would shave more than a minute off of the ride time because it would encounter fewer stoplights.

----> [Every other study I've seen referenced claims the opposite. Maybe the U is using New Math?]

Metropolitan Council chairman Peter Bell was disappointed in the regents' actions and said the findings on cost are premature.

"You have a research institution that I think is jumping to a judgment before all the facts are in," said Bell, who is also a former U regent.

The entire Central Corridor plan faces funding challenges after Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed $70 million in state money that was slated to help pay for the project.

---> [And the U's take was how much? More than three hundred million dollars, wasn't it?]

Bell, however, said he believes there is a way for that funding to be restored before the end of the legislative session. The inability to find common ground with the university, won't help that happen, he said.

But it should be obvious by now that OurLeader would prefer no light rail at all to one at grade down Washington Avenue. This is another example of the U's attitude toward the public good, despite what you might read in advertising campaigns...

How much funding did the U receive for biomedical research buildings? Wasn't that almost three hundred million dollars? And how much was the Folwell request? The Bell (not Peter)? And of course the vetoed light rail funding was a fraction of the U's take.

The public good? If you believe that, I have a gravel pit I'd like to sell you. It's in MoreU Park.

Bob, Tom?

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