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Council chief: Suit could delay, add to cost of Minnesota rail project

St. Paul, MN — The University of Minnesota’s lawsuit over the Central Corridor light rail project could delay construction and add $30 million to the cost, according to Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell.

The university filed a lawsuit this week against the Met Council, which is overseeing the project. The suit seeks protection from “the adverse effects” of the $941 million light rail project, which is scheduled to be under construction by next year and operational in 2014.

University officials have long feared that vibration and electromagnetic interference from the line would harm university research efforts related to illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. The university has 80 research laboratories in 17 buildings near the proposed Central Corridor route.

According to a statement attributed to Bell, “We believe their concerns about the project’s impacts on ‘U’ research facilities and our plans to mitigate those impacts were adequately addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, as required by federal and state law.

“Moreover, the university is expecting a level of detail today that normally would not be achieved in a project such as this until much later, when the project moves into the final design phase. We hope to receive federal approval to enter final design yet this fall and complete this work by the middle of next year, allowing us to secure federal funding and begin construction.”

The statement noted that the Met Council and “project partners” have met numerous times over the past months to develop mitigation plans and move the project forward on time and within budget.

“As recently as last week, all of our project partners, including the university, agreed that we have made substantial progress toward resolving many of the U’s issues,” according to the statement.

“Unfortunately, the university once again felt compelled to get the lawyers involved, which we don’t believe is particularly helpful. If the U’s lawsuit delays the project schedule one year, inflationary adjustments alone would add at least $30 million to the project’s cost.”

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