As Minneapolis citizens and community leaders sat down to study dozens of options for a swath of land cutting from downtown to the airport in the late 1970s, Max Goldberg guided the process.
A city planning department engineer, Goldberg was named director of the Hiawatha Avenue Corridor Study and worked with two committees to find consensus, ultimately recommending to build a light rail.
Goldberg died Nov. 7. He was 88.
For the Hiawatha corridor, “I think we started with, like, 32 alternatives,” said Richard Wolsfeld, who worked on the project as an employee of BRW, a planning and engineering firm contracted to work with the city. “Max was very instrumental in guiding that process through the community … then through the City Council. It was a major accomplishment.”
While state leaders had at one point planned to build a freeway and the state had already bought up the land to do so, many in the community opposed such a plan, Wolsfeld recalled.
As Goldberg worked with the community, he was also involved in completing the draft environmental impact statement for the project, according to his résumé.
Friendly and positive, Goldberg understood how community input mattered in transportation and development, Wolsfeld said. He also understood that his role as a city staff member was different from a decisionmaker or a policymaker, Wolsfeld said. “He cared about the community and he cared about transportation and he wanted to get the right answer.”
The group ended up recommending a reconfigured Hiawatha Avenue, along with the light-rail line running next to it.
His light-rail role followed a history of leadership for Goldberg.
The son of a Chicago tailor, he served in the Army in 1945-46. He went to college, eventually earning a master’s degree in engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He worked for IBM and later Control Data, where he helped develop the 3600 computer and became a manager.
But after getting laid off in 1970, a time of high unemployment for engineers, scientists and technicians, Goldberg spoke out, testifying to Congress about the need for a new approach by industry and organized labor to stem the exportation of technical jobs. During that time, he helped form and served as elected director of METRO-Vest, a self-help organization for such workers.
His daughter Lynn Turner, of Salem, Mass., recalls it being a difficult time for the family “going through the trauma of having a big family and not having the income and the struggle to find a new job.”
Goldberg’s wife, Sally Goldberg, worked for the state evaluating day cares throughout Minnesota at the time, helping to support the family of five children.
Goldberg was hired into the city of Minneapolis planning department in January of 1972 and worked there until retirement.
Another daughter, Frances Lewenstein, of Vadnais Heights, said her father was an avid reader who touted the importance of education, especially in scientific and technological fields. She said her father was proud to see the light-rail line opened in 2004, though he thought it should have opened sooner.
Goldberg was preceded in death by Sally. In addition to Turner and Lewenstein, he is survived by children Lawrence Goldberg, Deborah Kucinkas and Phyllis Goldberg, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.