- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Officials at the University of Minnesota are worrying that the year-old Green Line of the city’s light rail system will disrupt lab experiments.

Interference with the university’s sensitive and expensive research equipment has been caused by water, debris and some animals that have crept into the light rail tracks through rail access boxes. Leaves and litter that accumulate around the access boxes provide a path for the flow of electricity, officials said.

Researchers haven’t reported actual impact on current experiments, according to university officials, but tests conducted during the Green Line’s first year of operation have revealed higher than desired electromagnetic interference. And continued interference could affect several nuclear magnetic resonance machines, which are used in drug research, and how they work, Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/1RM5NmQ ) reported.

University officials have asked the Metropolitan Council to present a permanent solution in the next few months.

“We weren’t just concerned about the existing laboratories but really concerned about how research was going to evolve in the future,” said Leslie Krueger, chief of staff at University Services. “We wanted to make sure the train operations would not negatively impact our ability to do research in year one as well as 50 years from now.”

She explains the effect light rail could have on nuclear magnetic resonance machines using an analogy.

“If you put a magnet up to a compass, the compass goes haywire and you’re not able to get a good reading,” Krueger said. “Now imagine the train, or LRT, as that magnet, and our sensitive research equipment is that compass.”

The university and Met Council signed an agreement in 2010 to conduct quarterly vibration and electromagnetic interference testing during the Green Line’s first year of service, which began last June, and then to conduct semi-annual testing after that.

The University of Minnesota already has spent millions of dollars to move labs whose work it knew would be disrupted by light rail while it was still in the planning stages.

About 100 labs and more than 300 pieces of equipment are situated along the route.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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