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Open house to explore Gateway Corridor Oakdale-oriented route

The Gateway Corridor transitway would skirt western Woodbury in favor of a rerouted jog through Oakdale, according to an alternate alignment plan the public will get to examine this week.

Project officials last week announced an alternate route will be considered for the corridor, which proposes to build a high-speed transit connection between Woodbury and St. Paul’s Union Depot using either light rail or high-speed buses.

“The intent is to get some awareness out there that there is this other option that is being looked at,” said Andy Gitzlaff, a Washington county Public Works Department planner and project manager for the Gateway Corridor.

The public open house will be from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at Globe University, 8147 Globe Drive. Brief presentations outlining the project will be held at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Gitzlaff said the new route came at the behest of the city of Oakdale. He said concerns were raised about the original route’s proximity to the Oaks Business Park, which is looking to expand near Fourth Street and Helmo Avenue – the general area where the original route would make a southeasterly jog.

Planners came up with the new alternative route that follows Fourth Street as it travels east and continues on Hudson Road North once it reaches Lake Elmo.

A transit station for the alternate route would be placed at the existing park-and-ride facility at Guardian Angels Catholic Church. Gitzlaff said the facility would need to be expanded in order to handle expanded ridership in addition to the express buses it currently serves.

He said there has not yet been enough engineering to determine if one route would call for more property acquisition than another.

“There aren’t a lot of fatal flaws with either one,” Gitzlaff said, adding that initial projections would call for “slivers of property” acquisitions.

The original plan proposes crossing from Oakdale into Woodbury just west of Radio Drive utilizing a standalone structure.

It’s conceivable the alternate route wouldn’t enter Woodbury at all until some point east of Woodbury Drive; the current map calls for a transit station east of Radio Drive. Whether that station is north or south of Interstate 94 has yet to be determined.

The route east of that station has not yet been finalized. Gitzlaff said officials first must settle on one of the two routes west of Woodbury Drive.

“It really is a blank slate,” he said of those plans.

Cost estimates for the two competing routes are currently being studied, Gitzlaff said. Topography challenges for the southern route near the State Farm Insurance building look to be more complex than the northern route through Oakdale, which he called “more straightforward.”

This week’s open house represents the trailhead down a pathway toward a critical phase of the Gateway project.

Gitzlaff said the project enters an official environmental review process in March, which will be followed by two more public meetings that will address the scope of the project.

The Gateway Corridor Commission will make a decision on route alignment and the locations of transit stations at some point this summer, he said. That meeting will also include a final decision on the mode of transit – either bus-rapid transit or light rail.

“It really is the culmination of the work we’ve done in the last (alternatives analysis) study,” Gitzlaff said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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