Saturday, April 7, 2012

Minneapolis - Saint Paul Light Rail links & news

Metro Transit
Metro Transit cost, fares and ridership data
Metropolitan Council - Hiawatha Line, Central Corridor and plans

MSP Airport
Minneapolis and Saint Paul

MN Legislature
University of Minnesota

Simens - S70
Granite & the settlement

McCrossan & their contract


MN Public Radio

MPR filed this story in January 2012:
The first year of major construction on a future light-rail line in St. Paul suffered from communication lapses, haphazard planning, and inattention to community concerns — and that's according to the government agency that manages the project.

Hundreds of documents examined by MPR News show the magnitude of performance problems associated with building the St. Paul portion of the massive Central Corridor transit system connecting to Minneapolis.

Community members have complained about treacherous sidewalks and blocked access to businesses. The records reveal just how systemic some of the glitches were.

In some cases, project staff with the Met Council urged the general contractor to fix a problem — only to have Chicago-based Walsh Construction repeat the mistake again and again. At one point, an exasperated project official questioned whether Walsh had control of its own crews.

The Met Council is ultimately responsible for the $957 million Central Corridor endeavor, billed as the largest and arguably one of the most complex public-works projects in state history. It's scheduled to start service in 2014...

From July to mid-December [2011], the [Met] Council issued more than 100 "nonconformance" reports, which project officials say pertained to more serious issues in which Walsh did not comply with the contract...

The most striking example was a spot near the facility for the State Services for the Blind, where the sidewalk narrowed by more than two feet and then abruptly dropped off by a foot. There were also uncovered holes up to six feet deep near the pedestrian detours, records say. Employee John Hess, who is blind, relies on his fast-trotting service dog, Barclay, to use judgment when approaching dangerous situations that Hess cannot see. But the experience of walking from the bus stop to his office left a lot to chance, he said.

"Terrified," Hess said. "Sometimes it was just hit or miss — 'Let's go for it and see what happens.' And there were times where cars would turn, and I didn't know about it, and Barclay would have to execute some nice little maneuvers to get out of their way."

When [Mark] Fuhrmann, of the project office, showed pictures of the walkways to the Walsh executives in Chicago, "their eyes bulged out," he said.

Problems with inaccessible sidewalks and pedestrian detours led to the only fines against Walsh, totaling $50,000 over the summer.

Although Fuhrmann and other top officials have helped steer other large rail projects to completion, this is the Met Council's first stab as an agency at building light-rail. The Minnesota Department of Transportation led construction of the Hiawatha line in Minneapolis, although Met Council planners were heavily involved.

The Met Council issued multiple reports against Walsh for mishandling asbestos. Excavation crews uncovered transite pipes, which are often used to protect electrical wiring. Instead of stopping work immediately and reporting the presence of asbestos-containing materials, construction crews went ahead with removing them with no special oversight staff present, the documents say.

"Walsh has proven time and again that they are incapable of following environmental laws when they are in close proximity to existing asbestos," a project staff member wrote in July...

{Much more to the story and documents at MPR}

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