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OUR VIEW: Surprise! Gold Line might stop in Woodbury

The city has done it again. Finances reportedly are a wreck, council member points to council member as the cancer corrupting the room (even issuing gag orders against elected official), and now what we assumed was a done deal has come crashing down.

Thank goodness, we're not talking about our city. Woodbury has been far more functional than Lake Elmo, as evidenced by recent news that the court proceedings of the latter will carry a $200,000 insurance deductible.

Let us be clear, we only wish our neighboring city well. We are just glad to not be in those shoes. Lake Elmo, please keep its drama on the north side of the interstate, thank you very much.

Well, with all the drama in Lake Elmo over the years, it must not have been a surprise to elected officials when in January the Lake Elmo City Council voted against the locally preferred route for Gold Line (aka Gateway Corridor) bus-rapid transit, which would've gone through Lake Elmo and Woodbury.

However, it was a shocker to some of the affected neighborhoods when the new preference was announced in September. Maybe we got caught up in the momentum for the project, forgetting that a turn into Woodbury and the abandoning of the east side of Woodbury was a possibility.

But when we first talked about finding a new locally preferred route for the bus-rapid transit, the published map indicated a south-of-the-interstate route from west of Radio Drive to Settlers Ridge Parkway was on the table. This month, discussions focused on a dedicated busway on a bridge over Interstate 94 at Bielenberg Drive, as well as a through route to the Woodbury 10 Theatre, site of an existing Metro Transit hub. This route stays on the west side of Woodbury.

Your local newspaper is undecided on the best route for the new transit line. But like some average Joe citizens, we reacted to the newly proposed route with surprise.

We always thought the route would take us through Woodbury to Manning Avenue, not cut off halfway across town.

Although the Gold Line was never proposed with a cheap price tag, we didn't realize that a buses-only bridge might be built over I-94.

We didn't think the four commissioners would propose to put the end of the line in a district currently unrepresented on the Washington County Board.

Surely, there is good reason for transit proponents' reactions to the new proposal. The timing can be explained by more than one unfortunate circumstance—namely the death of a beloved commissioner and the drama at Lake Elmo City Hall.

Undoubtedly, Gold Line advocates are thankful for Gov. Mark Dayton's promise to put $3 million of seed money for the $485 million project into his next budget proposal.

Hopefully, residents continue to turn out to discuss the pros and cons of the Gold Line routes so that our voices can be taken into account as the planners and consultants and elected officials put together an alternative route from the Union Depot in St. Paul, through Maplewood, Landfall, Oakdale and Woodbury.

We don't foresee Woodbury City Council joining Lake Elmo in distaste for the Gold Line. Our city has proven far more progressive than the neighbor at issue. But we do hope that all facets of the new proposal can be carefully considered as residents adjust to what might not have been a surprise route to elected officials and may have shocked a few who, unaware of all options, mistakenly thought the first plans—in an entirely different city—were a foregone conclusion. We all ought to understand the frustration that might fester when one city's lack of cohesiveness dramatically affects a neighbor and willing partner.

Mathias Baden, editor of the Woodbury Bulletin, wrote this editorial.