It's called blackmail, and the U will pay a great price for it
A very public fight broke out Wednesday afternoon pitting the Metropolitan Council against the University of Minnesota during an otherwise routine meeting of the Central Corridor Management Committee.
The battle about a temporary easement that was really about larger negotiations between the Met Council and the U of M over the $957 million light rail project prompted one official to compare these negotiations unfavorably with those that led to the SALT II nuclear power treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the late 1970s.
"Peter is trying to use this public forum to put pressure on the university to get this done, and I don't believe that will be very effective," said O'Brien.
The exchange started when Beckwith mentioned an upcoming March 24 deadline regarding "Advanced Traffic Improvements" that the Central Corridor project will be incorporating along the part of the LRT's path scheduled to cut through the middle of the U of M campus along Washington Avenue.
To do the work, the Central Corridor needs to obtain a temporary easement from the U of M, something that the U of M has not yet granted.
Bell clearly and repeatedly let his frustration be known about the lack of a temporary easement, saying it echoed much larger and more difficult disagreements between the Met Council and the U of M that could scuttle the entire project.
"I am frustrated that it has taken the U over a week to respond [to the Met Council's formal request for the temporary easement]," Bell said, characterizing the easement as a relatively very small thing.
"I am increasingly pessimistic that we will be able to get a deal done in part because of the U's inability to make a decision on the temporary easement.
"If the U can't give us this easement, one that will save the project money and avoid delays, it makes me increasingly pessimistic that we will be able to negotiate [successfully] the substantive issues we have before us."
O'Brien responded by saying that the university wants an agreement in place on the bigger issues of the safeguards before it will grant any easements.
"There are some difficult issues ... regarding exceedances of vibration standards and what will happen and what are the actions that need to be taken," O'Brien said. "And I believe that's where our tension [sic] should be."
After the meeting, Steve Dornfeld, head spokesman for the Met Council, who has attended more than 20 of the ongoing negotiations, said, "I think the SALT II treaty was resolved more quickly than this will be."