BRT recommended for Gateway Corridor; Proposed transit line would connect East Metro to St. Paul, other lines

This mp shows the locally preferred alternative route of the Gateway Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project. The route will be further refined through the engineering process (Submitted graphic)
This map shows the locally preferred alternative route of the Gateway Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project. The route will be further refined through the engineering process. (Submitted graphic)

The public has the option to weigh in on the “locally preferred alternative” (LPA) for the proposed Gateway Corridor transit project at a public hearing Thursday, Aug. 7, or in writing through Wednesday, Aug. 13.

The Gateway Corridor project is a proposed transit line to connect downtown St. Paul and other transit lines to East Metro suburbs.

The Gateway Corridor Policy Advisory Committee passed a resolution July 24 recommending a locally preferred alternative, which includes bus rapid transit (BRT) in a dedicated guideway instead of light rail.

The recommendation also includes a more specific route than previously identified along I-94 and Hudson Road. The recommended route travels north of I-94 until Lake Elmo Avenue, then crosses over to the south side of I-94 into Woodbury and finishes at Manning Ave.

The Policy Advisory Committee is made up of community representatives, partnering agencies and business and education interests along the corridor.

“Cost efficiency, more riders and an identified federal funding source were the deciding factors in our recommendation of bus rapid transit instead of light rail,” said Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik, chairperson of the Gateway Corridor Commission.

“Coming to an agreement on the right route required more discussion,” said Scott Beauchamp of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. “The different routes were similar in technical scope and cost. We chose to adopt a route that provides the best opportunities for long term job access and economic development.”

The transit mode and route alignment considered by the Policy Advisory Committee incorporated community input on four different route variations through Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Woodbury. Each route is in a dedicated, bi-directional guideway for BRT covering 12 miles along Interstate Highway 94 and Hudson Road with 12 stations between Union Depot in Saint Paul and Manning Ave. in Woodbury. According to the project website, cost is estimated up to $465 million, which is one of the least expensive alternatives. A light rail line was estimated at $950 million.

Project planners hope to receive 50 percent of the funding from federal sources, with 30 percent coming from the Counties Transit Improvement Board, 10 percent from the state and a combined 10 percent from the Washington and Ramsey county regional railroad authorities. After construction, the line would be maintained and operated by Metro Transit.

The locally preferred alternative (LPA) is conceptual and will be further refined through the engineering process.

The Policy Advisory Committee will hold a public hearing to continue the LPA conversation on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, 6 p.m., Conway Recreation Center, 2090 Conway Ave., St. Paul. Written comments will be accepted on the LPA recommendation until Aug. 13.

Gateway Corridor staff say they will work specifically with the city of Lake Elmo to provide additional information to property owners, businesses and residents that are adjacent to the route.

Over the next few months, Gateway Corridor Commission member cities and county regional railroad authorities also will review and vote on the LPA.

The commission’s goal is to have the locally preferred alternative included in the Metropolitan Council’s 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

The selection of an LPA is a local decision-making process, which informs local and federal funding and project development. It is a separate process from the federal Draft Environmental Impact Study, also occurring at this time. The LPA selection process does not replace or override the requirement to fully examine alternatives and determine the adverse impacts that must be avoided or mitigated under the federal and state environmental review process. More information can be found at under the Transit Studies tab.

  • BillBasham

    Thank you for the common sense Lisa Weik.

    You should add a changing technology base for reasons not to invest in massive infrastructure. Car manufacturers are talking about deploying self driving cars as soon as 2016, and that will completely change transportation dynamics.

    Good article!