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Lisa Weik Viewpoint: Key phase begins for Gold Line BRT project

Those of us who live in the east metro enjoy an exceptional quality of life, with access to excellent parks and other amenities, great school districts, and numerous fantastic employers.

But one thing our part of the Twin Cities is lacking is high-quality, dedicated, frequent transit that is connected directly to the growing transit system that brings our entire Minneapolis-St. Paul region together.

For seven years, elected officials, business leaders and community members have been working together through the Gateway Corridor Commission to bring better transit to the east metro. That work has led to the development of Gateway Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit, which will be Minnesota's first BRT line in a dedicated busway.

This cost-effective transportation solution will run approximately 9 miles, largely near Interstate 94, from Union Depot in St. Paul through the east side of St. Paul, Maplewood, Landfall, Oakdale and Woodbury. Gold Line BRT is critical to the future development of our region. It will provide all-day transit service in both directions to connect people who are headed to work, school, medical appointments, to pick up their kids or to get to sporting or arts events.

This kind of transit is needed to help connect people with jobs. To compete for economic growth, we need better transit, especially in the east metro. We know that employers seek to be located near transitways. And many workers, especially millennials and Gen Z graduates now beginning to enter the workforce, prefer to take transit rather than use a personal vehicle.

Gold Line BRT is now at an important stage in its development. The project is moving forward and as part of Gold Line's next phase, management of the project has transitioned from the Gateway Corridor Commission to the Metropolitan Council, who will be the grantee for the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Grant Program.

The Metropolitan Council is the regional expert in designing, constructing, and operating transit, and they will be leading the final phases of the project. Metro Transit, a division of the Metropolitan Council, will provide project management and technical staff for the newly formed Gold Line Project office along with staff from Washington and Ramsey Counties and MnDOT.

Washington County, Ramsey County and the five cities along the line will continue to be active partners in ensuring that Gold Line BRT effectively serves residents, employees, businesses, higher education institutions, and nonprofits in the east metro region. Working on station area design and determining the best ways for people to access the line will be among some of the important work coming up.

Additional key activities include hiring project staff, refining the schedule to deliver the project in an efficient manner, and working with the Federal Transit Administration to apply to the Capital Investment Grant Program which could pay for approximately 45 to 50 percent of the project through federal funds. Gold Line BRT is projected to begin service in 2024.

At the beginning of 2018, work will begin on what is called Project Development. Project Development is a two-year engineering phase and the main work products will be to further the design of the Gold Line and obtain environmental clearance.

There will be many opportunities for the public to weigh in on project design decisions and comment on the environmental process. We encourage you to follow Gold Line BRT's progress via Twitter at @GoldLineBRT and on Metro Transit's website at metrotransit.org/gold-line-project. Additional information on how to be involved with the project will also continue to be posted at thegatewaycorridor.com.

We hope you will be engaged with us as we work to develop this high-quality transit option for the east metro.

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