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Woodbury City Council to Met Council: Look east

Enhanced park and rides, creation of a bus circulator service and increased emphasis on I-94 in the east metro.

Those are some of the main concerns listed by the city of Woodbury regarding the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council's transportation policy plan.

The Woodbury City Council voted 5-0 Nov. 12 to send a letter of feedback to the Met Council regarding its draft 2030 transportation policy plan.

The draft plan contains policies and implementation strategies pertinent to highways, transit, freight and goods movement, pedestrian and bicyclists and air transportation management.

The Met Council is allowing cities and counties in the metro to provide feedback on the plan before it approves a final version sometime next year.

A number of city councils and county boards throughout the metro have voiced concern over aspects of the plan that pertain to their community.

The city of Woodbury's letter of feedback, drafted by city administrator Clint Gridley, praises the overall Met Council plan as a guide for transportation planning through the next 20 year period. But the letter does criticize the plan on a number of issues related specifically to a lack of emphasis on transit improvements in the east metro.

More support for I-94 on east side

The letter calls for the plan to call greater attention to the I-94 corridor in the east metro.

"[The Met Council plan] does not identify any expansion projects for this corridor," the letter states. "We feel this is a significant deficiency in the plan and should be addressed."

The letter calls for the Met Council to include language in its plan that would ensure implementation of a I-94 corridor study and alternative mode analysis by 2020.

The letter also suggests the Met Council should include in its plan more financial support for park and rides in Woodbury and the possible implementation of a bus circulator for the community.

"These local elements are crucial in encouraging longer distance commuter trips to shift to regional transit services," the letter states.

Greg Watson, who represents the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the Nov. 12 council meeting in support of the city's feedback on the Met Council plan.

"We want to ensure that the transportation needs of the metro area are moving east, not west," Watson said. "The vibrancy of this community is dependent on a robust, well-linked transportation system. That's got to be the cornerstone of what we're doing."

Expanding park and ride service

During the meeting Woodbury City Council members expressed their support for the drafted letter, which was sent to the Met Council last week.

City council member Paul Rebholz said the need for more park and ride support is evident each day as he uses the Metro Transit Express Bus service to his job in downtown Minneapolis.

"Wednesday morning, the (park and ride) lot at the Woodbury theater was full," Rebholz said. "There's no place to park, so then what are you supposed to do."

Rebholz added that the Metro Transit funded for expansion of the park and ride lot at the nearby Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale, but said that the demand for commuting via the bus was not decreasing with gas prices.

"People understand how convenient the express bus service is that will continue to grow," he said. "People recognize there is a quality in this service."

Mayor Bill Hargis said that at one time he was skeptical of how much demand Metro Transit services would have in Woodbury.

He said he has seen that demand outpace the provided services and supports the letter to the Met Council to see support increased for Woodbury and the east metro.

"The real goal we need to have out here is to make sure we get our fair share," he said.