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VIEWPOINT: South Washington County should be part of regional transit equation

As a fast-growing county, we need to work together to meet the demands this growth presents.

According to the Metropolitan Council, Washington County is expected to add 100,000 residents by 2040. As a region, we need to prepare for that growth responsibly. In the 2016 Washington County Resident Survey, the lack of access to public transit was identified as the most problematic issue in the county. Employers need transit options to offer to current employees and recruit new workers.

Reflecting that cross-section of concerns, meeting transit needs has become a critical regional issue that is the focus of Washington County.

Red Rock Corridor is a proposed bus rapid transit line from Hastings to St. Paul. As chairwoman of the corridor commission, I have helped to direct a lot of time studying the needs of the area and how best to meet the future demands. Businesses, local government partners and the public have provided feedback on the corridor plan. Residents and officials from each of the cities along the route are excited about the possibility of having an all-day, bi-directional bus service available in our area. Additionally, we appreciate the support of the business community for the corridor.

We are working to build ridership along the corridor, which does take time. The Metropolitan Council is considering, with the support of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, an all-day, bi-directional bus route running every 30 minutes along the Red Rock Corridor. Additionally, the Newport Transit Station will be a State Fair Park and Ride lot this year. This additional location will provide publicity for the station and alleviate the overflow at the Cottage Grove Park and Ride during the busy time. I would like to thank the Metropolitan Council for its approval of the additional location.

A comprehensive transportation system must have a regional approach. Residents of south Washington County travel to and from all areas of the Twin Cities, and we need to be part of that the transit equation. To have a comprehensive transportation system, there needs to be a state partner. I was disappointed that the state Legislature failed to pass a transportation bill this past legislative session. The lack of state funding makes it more difficult for counties to complete necessary road and bridge projects or expand transit options in the east metro. My hope is that there will be a special session at which a comprehensive transportation bill is passed with a transit component to meet the needs of our fast growing region.

Please feel free to contact me at karla.bigham@co.washington.mn.us or 651-430- 6214 with any questions. Have a wonderful summer. Thank you for allowing me to be your Washington County commissioner.

Karla Bigham represents Washington County Commissioner District 4, which includes Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport, Grey Cloud Island Township, Denmark Township and parts of Woodbury and Hastings.

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