Board allocates CTIB funds to bus routes, I-94 studyThroughout the year Washington County commissioners took time during their weekly board meetings to discuss the merits of a contentious quarter-cent transit sales tax increase they approved in April on a 3-2 vote.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
Throughout the year Washington County commissioners took time during their weekly board meetings to discuss the merits of a contentious quarter-cent transit sales tax increase they approved in April on a 3-2 vote.
Several months later, the debate over that decision was actually no debate at all when the county board voted 5-0 at its Dec. 16 meeting to allocate $950,000 in revenue it is slated to receive from the Counties Transit Improvement Board to three different projects in 2009.
Two of those projects include temporary funding for two commuter bus lines from Forest Lake to Minneapolis and St. Paul. The other project is a transit alternatives study for the I-94 corridor in the east metro.
The Counties Transit Improvement Board, or CTIB, was created as a part of a joint powers agreement made up of five metro area counties, including Washington County. CTIB is the board responsible for doling out funds collected from each of counties, via the quarter-cent transit sales tax increase, for various transit-improvement projects in those counties.
Washington County’s quarter-cent transit sales tax increase is expected to collect $5 million annually, and earlier this year some commissioners expressed concern over the county not getting as much out of CTIB as it was putting in.
What the county did get for 2009 is $950,000, and after discussions among staff and commissioners at workshop meetings over the last few months, the board voted to allocate the CTIB funding for three different projects:
• Forest Lake to Minneapolis bus service
$278,000 to fund continuation of Metro Transit Express bus service from Forest Lake to Minneapolis. Almost $233,000 of that will pay for the continued 2009 service. The other $45,000 will pay for the service that was continued after federal transit funding for the service ended after the 35W bridge in Minneapolis was reconstructed and opened.
• Forest Lake to St. Paul bus service
$118,050 for funding of a new commuter bus service from Forest Lake to St. Paul. Ramsey, Anoka and Chisago counties will also be putting $118,050 toward the creation of the rush line service.
The county board’s vote to commit funds to the each of the bus services came with a stipulation that Metropolitan Transit would fund any continuance of the routes in 2010 and beyond, after Forest Lake is expected to enter into the Metropolitan Council’s transit taxing district.
• I-94 corridor transit alternatives study
The remaining $553,950 will be dedicated to an alternative transit study of the I-94 corridor. The estimated total costs of the study is $1 million. County officials have said the remainder of the cost could be sought through federal transportation aid.
The county is also exploring the possibility of forming an east metro I-94 corridor joint powers agreement with communities like Woodbury, Lake Elmo, Oakdale, which could contribute funds to the project.