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Continued: MPR sues Central Corridor over noise, vibration concerns

  • Article by: JIM FOTI , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 4, 2010 - 10:04 PM

Burdened by a pair of lawsuits and a civil rights complaint, planners of the Central Corridor light-rail line could at least take comfort in having achieved detente with Minnesota Public Radio on issues of noise and vibration.

On Thursday, MPR sued.

In papers filed in Ramsey County District Court, the broadcasting empire says that the Metropolitan Council hasn't kept up its end of a deal to protect studios in buildings along Cedar Street in downtown St. Paul, where light-rail trains are scheduled to roll in 2014.

"Our position hasn't changed, there are no new issues, there are no new requests," Nick Kereakos, MPR's managing director for broadcast production and operations, said Thursday. "All we ask is that the Met Council live up to the agreement it signed less than a year ago."

The suit centers on the type of track bed that will be used along Cedar Street in front of MPR and two historic churches. MPR is seeking to have the rails placed on steel springs to isolate the vibrations. It says the Met Council, in planning to install a less expensive rubber pad instead, is failing to use its "best efforts."

But such pads are "what the standard is in this country," said Peter Bell, chairman of the Met Council.

"I think their lawsuit has no merit, none, and we will prevail. We will fight this vigorously," he said.

"We can't allow people on the line to be determining for us how we're going to design and operate the line," he said, expressing concern that precedents could be set for other upcoming transit projects such as the Southwest Corridor light-rail line.

"We won't tell MPR how to do classical music, and MPR shouldn't tell our engineers how to engineer a light-rail line," he said.

Tom Kigin, MPR's executive vice president, said the Met Council "signed up for a series of standards that they promised to meet, and in the end, the solution that they've chosen doesn't meet those standards."

Steel springs have a proven track record in cold weather in close proximity to sensitive sites, Kereakos said, and they can be fixed much more quickly. MPR earlier had tried to get the route moved off Cedar Street.

Latest conflict

"We are disappointed [by the lawsuit], but believe that the issues can be resolved if the parties come together in good faith," said Nancy Homans, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's point person for the Central Corridor. Coleman played a key role in bringing the parties together last winter.

MPR said it is making no attempt to halt the project, and Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, said this week in Washington, D.C., that he expects work on the Central Corridor to continue.

"It is not out of the ordinary for us to get sued by a variety of parties as these projects move forward," he said. "We will continue to move the project forward, lawsuits or no lawsuits, up and until someone gets a temporary restraining order, and we would obviously fight that."

Rogoff came to St. Paul last week with federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to announce that three long-sought stations would be added to the University Avenue portion of the line.

A St. Paul neighborhood group has sued over the line's effect on businesses and residents, while the University of Minnesota has sued over its concerns about how noise and vibration will affect research equipment. A stretch of track in the heart of the East Bank campus will be placed on a rubber pad.

"Where we are now in design, it looks like the rubber slab will work for us on Washington Avenue," said Tim Busse, a university spokesman. "That being said, what works for labs on Washington Avenue doesn't necessarily mean it will absolutely work for recording equipment on Cedar Street."

Staff writer Chris Havens contributed to this report. Jim Foti • 612-673-4491

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