Progress on the METRO Gold Line project is rolling along in Woodbury.
Late last month, Woodbury City Council approved a resolution in support of the bus rapid transit line's "15 percent plan," or a partial concept design plan. The stated purpose of the 10-mile bus line is to connect downtown St. Paul to its eastern neighborhoods and suburbs Landfall, Maplewood, Oakdale and Woodbury with "frequent, all-day service in both directions, seven days a week."
The Gold Line, expected to begin servicing riders in 2024, would be the first of its kind in the state, running mainly in bus-only lanes just north of Interstate 94. It will have the same fare as light rail and local buses, according to the Metro Transit website.
Transit systems aren't a cure-all for congestion, said John Schadl, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Council. But they do provide an alternative to driving.
"What they give people is the option to opt out of the congestion and get to their destination in a timely manner, and they do take cars and trucks off the road," he said.
Metro Transit estimates the Gold Line will provide 8,000 rides per day. ("Rides" are expressed as individual trips, not unique riders.)
Existing express bus routes will be unaffected, according to Metro Transit. The express line currently serves Woodbury residents with morning and late afternoon routes to and from several locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Pickup and drop-off times are limited to approximately 6-9 a.m. and 3:30-7 p.m. on weekdays only.
Run time for the planned route is estimated at "under 40 minutes" from Woodbury to Union Depot in St. Paul, where it will connect with the Green Line light rail, Schadl said.
Landfall, Maplewood, Oakdale and St. Paul, as well as Washington and Ramsey counties, "have indicated their continued support for the project," Schadl said.
An environmental assessment will be published and open for public comment Oct. 7. The assessment will show the results of a study of the planned line's effect on area homes and businesses.
Design for local stations, which are more platform than building, and the surrounding area is expected to begin late this year, according to the city. Current plans include 21 stations along the bus line, with three in Woodbury: one at the Woodbury 494 Park and Ride on Woodlane Drive, one near Woodbury Theatre on Guider Drive and one on Tamarack Road. Parking will be available at the Woodbury 494 Park and Ride Station and the Woodbury Theatre Station.
In January 2018, the Federal Transit Administration accepted the Gold Line project into its "New Starts" program, which assists transit projects that exceed $300 million. Current estimates put overall costs of the Gold Line project at $461 million, making it eligible to receive matching funds from the FTA.
The city plans to spend about $20,000 on improvements to a portion of a trail on the south side of Hudson Road between Bielenberg Drive and Landau Drive. The city's 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Plan also shows a $1,010,000 "placeholder" in the 2023 Municipal State Aid Roadway Construction Fund for "local improvements." Consulting costs to help identify land use around the stations are expected to be paid out of the city's Economic Development Authority's special revenue fund budget.
More about the city's portion of the bill will come into focus as progress is made on plans, and the budget is subject to change based on city direction, city engineer Tony Kutzke said.
A council workshop kicking off the master planning process of stations is planned for January 2020. Construction is expected to begin in 2022.
Voice your opinion
Representatives for the METRO Gold Line project will be at upcoming community events, including:
- 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Woodbury farmers market in the Central Park/YMCA parking lot in Woodbury
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 18 outside the Gold Line Project Office in St. Paul during the Securian farmers market
- 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 28 at Big Truck Day in the Central Park parking lot in Woodbury