All six cities along the Gateway Corridor have officially approved a bus rapid transit alignment that runs along the north side of Interstate 94 before dropping into Woodbury at the end of the proposed line at Manning Avenue.
But they weren’t all unanimous votes.
Woodbury passed the resolution 3-1 Wednesday with one council member absent and another opposing the project, citing reasons for not having the opportunity to respond to neighboring cities’ concerns and wish lists for the alignment.
The dissenting council member, Christopher Burns, said he thought a more firm plan for what to do with the interchange at Interstate 94 and Settlers Ridge Parkway/Lake Elmo Avenue would’ve given him a better understanding of how the project will impact Woodbury.
He also referred to Lake Elmo’s support for the locally preferred alternative (LPA) with the stipulation that five major items be addressed before the city’s final consent.
Those goals include considering an easterly station at the northwest corner of Manning Avenue and Interstate 94 to support economic development, and that an interchange is never built at the crossroads of Interstate 94 and Lake Elmo Avenue.
Additionally, a safety and security plan must be developed for the Gateway Corridor that ensures Lake Elmo residents will not be adversely affected by the BRT, Lake Elmo’s resolution states.
“I just wasn’t sure if this option to me seemed right for the city of Woodbury,” Burns said of the alignment. “I wasn’t persuaded.”
Though he said he wasn’t criticizing the process that Gateway Corridor has gone through so far, with numerous studies and data analysis, he said there wasn’t an opportunity to react to comments from each municipality that touches the line.
“At this time, a ‘no’ vote was the right perspective on this issue,” he said.
Woodbury was the last city faced with a decision to support the LPA, a federally prescribed process. The decision doesn’t mean municipal consent for the entire $400 million BRT project that’s still a few years away from construction.
Washington County transportation coordinator Andy Gitzlaff said issues raised by all cities will still be studied further and additional options may be included in the final plan.
Any interchange improvements would require input from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Woodbury, Lake Elmo and the Federal Highway Administration, he added.
The purpose of the LPA is to identify a lead runner that would benefit all communities and enhance economic development, said Washington County Commissioner and Gateway Corridor Commission Chairwoman Lisa Weik.
Municipal consent for the LPA signals to the Counties Transit Improvement Board and the Federal Transit Improvement Board that the alignment is worthy of further investigation, she added.
“Taking this next step will allow the additional work needed to address any outstanding issues that were still in the beginning stages,” she said.
Weik said BRT was the best option to move forward after further studies revealed a light rail transit would be too costly.
“BRT is the fiscally constraint mode moving more people than LRT at less than half the capital cost to build,” she said, adding that it provides all day service with nights and weekends and plans don’t impact existing express bus service.