I don’t get the U’s complaint

On Monday we saw another complaint from the U about the route of the Central Corridor and its impact on labs in a Strib commentary.

Now this commentary comes from Tim Mulcahy VP for Research at the U.

What gives us pause about this important development is the harm it poses to our critical research mission unless appropriate measures are deployed to protect our research facilities and equipment from harmful vibrations and electromagnetic interference (EMI) associated with the constant passage of 195-foot trains, each weighing 265,000 pounds.

You may remember that the U prefered a route through Dinkytown, not on Washington Ave.  But for the Washington Ave route, they preferred a tunnel.  Looking at this archive from a Pioneer Press article in February 2008, we can verify that.

 The U gave up on hopes for a tunnel beneath Washington Avenue on the East Bank campus.

 Now, I am not a VP for Research, but I have sat in the Cumberland theater adjacent to the Bloor subway line in Toronto, and a tunnel does not mean vibration free.  So my question is why all these complaints when their 2nd choice, a tunnel, was acceptable.  Maybe EMI would be more manageable as there was more solids between the power lines and the equipment, that makes sense to me and I can buy that.  But vibrations, a tunnel would have had the same problem.

Not only that, but the timing seems off, after all they accepted this compromise in February 2008, but there Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) was issued on June 13, 2008.  Wouldn’t you want that demand met before you made the compromise in June 2008.

Later in the commentary we see this, comparing to the situation in Seattle and the University of Washington:

Seattle’s decision to heed its university’s concerns provides a precedent confirming the legitimacy of the same issues raised here and, more important, demonstrates that it is possible to manage such issues to mutual benefit — if only there is a willingness to do so. For the university to throw its support behind the Central Corridor project, we must be reassured that our concerns have been adequately addressed — we need the same consideration that our sister institution in Washington state received when confronting the same challenges. To allow construction on the Central Corridor to move forward before the U’s concerns about the impact on its research enterprise are resolved would be a risky, unnecessary gamble and would place the public’s enormous investment in the university in jeopardy.

So when you accepted the compromise in February 2008, did you do that without assurances, and if so, why did you agree to it?  That would be very stupid.  If the Met Council did agree to things and are now backing out of it, then air the promises.

To try and claim that this instance as precedent is nice, but I wonder if the Met Council could find an example where the University’s demands were not met.  We all want to use an example that tries to make the other party seem less reasonable and your own demands more reasonable.  But with the timeline, and the supposed compromise that the University entered into without the apparent assurances, you have to wonder if this some belated demands or not.

Now I am fan of both science and mass transit, but in case like this we need to figure out what is reasonable.  Right now, based on the facts at hand, I think that the U is not being reasonable.

Now if the U wants to present the dates of their solutions as they list them here, and there better be ones pre-dating the February 2008 compromise, then I open to re-evaluating who is being reasonable.

The university has shared these concerns — along with some proposed solutions — with the Metropolitan Council, the governmental unit responsible for the Central Corridor project, on numerous occasions and in four official document filings.

-Josh

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