Following Lake Elmo's withdraw from a proposed project to bring Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to the Twin Cities' East Metro, planners are looking for an alternative route that could have Woodbury come out on top.
The Gateway Corridor Commission announced Thursday several alternative route for the proposed Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit that avoid Lake Elmo, including a route south of Oakdale that terminates in Woodbury Village.
Previously estimated at $485 million, the Gold Line bus BRT project will connect Union Depot Station in St. Paul, passing through Maplewood, Landfall, Oakdale and Woodbury along Interstate 94.
In January, Lake Elmo’s city council voted 3-2 to cut ties with the project, prompting planners to go back to the drawing board for the line’s eastern route.
One of the routes presented would see the bus turn south on Helmo Avenue in Oakdale, eventually crossing over the interstate on a dedicated BRT bridge. The route would continue south onto Bielenberg Drive in Woodbury and end at the express bus park and ride in Woodbury Village.
This commission is considering the Bielenberg Drive route because it passes close to existing and future healthcare services, as well as retail,restaurants and offices.
Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said having the Gold Line go down Bielenberg Drive would also compliment existing express busses traveling up and down that way.
Currently about 40 busses run along Bielenberg Drive during morning and evening rush hours, but only a handful run during the afternoon and at night, said Washington County planner Lyssa Leitner. Daytime travelers only have a short window to commute to and from St. Paul to cities like Oakdale and Woodbury, she said.
With an increase in job growth in Woodbury, people commuting to Woodbury sometimes don’t have public transit options, Stephens said.
“We've heard that from the representatives on the commission and from public comment that there's not way to get out here for jobs that are here,” Stephens said. “You have to drive."
Details about how the line would connect Woodbury and Oakdale are also being determined with three other plans up for consideration, including a BRT bridge connecting Weir Drive and Hadley Avenue in Oakdale, as well as plans for busses to cross the I-94 on Radio Drive.
Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik, who chairs the the Gateway Gold Line Corridor Commission, said the flexibility of having busses versus a light rail system may lead to possible expansions and tweaks .
Bus rapid transit has been slowly making its way to the Twin Cities’ metro with the opening of the Red Line in 2013 , which connects Apple Valley to the Mall of America. Earlier this summer, Metro Transit debuted the A-Line BRT, which cuts through St. Paul’s Snelling avenue and connects the 46th Street Light Rail station to Rosedale Mall.
Like those lines, the Gold Line will operate similar to light rail transit, or LRT, where passengers pay before they they board and busses dock into stations for 10 to 15 seconds. Busses will also stop at stations every 10 minutes during rush hour and will continue running throughout the day.
The Gold Line would be the first BRT line in the Twin Cities Metro to travel on a dedicated lane.
The Gateway Corridor Commission and Policy Advisory Committee is currently seeking comments about the considered routes before drafting a final plan.
Residents can weigh in on the project by going to: thegatewaycorridor.com
The commission expects to select a route by the end of the year.