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Keep the Gold Line moving, so it can keep us moving

Courtesy of Metro Transit/Eric Wheeler
As East Metro communities grow and more jobs are created, BRT — like that already serving the Red Line route in the south metro — is a long-term solution.

The East Metro needs – and wants – better transportation choices. We are Republican and DFL state legislators working hard to bring those choices, including the option of advancing the Gateway Gold Line bus rapid transit line.

As our communities grow and more jobs are created, the Gateway Gold Line BRT is a long-term solution.  It’s a moderate, pragmatic and fiscally prudent approach that will ease congestion, connect employers and workers, and stimulate future economic development.

More than five years ago, citizens, community leaders, and businesses along Interstate 94 began planning the best way to improve transportation in the corridor between St. Paul and the St. Croix River. After hard work and much collaboration in a highly data-driven process, they selected bus rapid transit (BRT) in a dedicated guideway as the best way to provide a reliable, high quality and cost-effective choice.  

Our cities, businesses, and citizens see this project as a good, long-term solution to a variety of challenges and opportunities for this part of the region:  

  • Population in the corridor will grow 40 percent by 2030.
  • Jobs are projected to grow by 70 percent.
  • Traffic is increasing on I-94 and MnDOT has no current plans for expansion.

Current residents — and the people we want to move here — need and want reliable options. Current employers — and the ones we want to locate here — need quality transit to recruit and retain employees. 

Current express bus service is popular, but does not and cannot meet all our needs. Express bus was not enough for potential tenants for the former State Farm campus, so the building has sat, empty, for 10 years. 

Every city along the corridor voted to select dedicated-guideway BRT as the Locally Preferred Alternative. The plan maintains popular express bus service, while adding a much-needed way for people to commute both west and east to work, shop and play.

The Gold Line will be paid for in large part by funds already collected by Washington County and the other members of the Counties Transit Improvement Board. Half the cost would come from federal funds dedicated to transit, and we definitely prefer those funds be spent in the East Metro and not in Dallas or Salt Lake City. No Gateway funds would come from the state gas tax. 

With these independent sources of funding, why are we working to include the Gold Line in this year’s state transportation budget? Because most of these independent funds pay for construction, not planning. We are working for state funding to take the next step in planning, after which communities would again vote on whether to proceed with the project based on sound data. 

If we miss this year, the eventual cost of construction would increase, community input would be delayed, and potential employers and new residents who want choices would look elsewhere. That’s bad not only for our communities and the whole East Metro, but also for the whole state. Recall the empty State Farm campus. State Farm is currently building a large new regional office in Dallas — at a transit station.  

We need more progress on the Gold Line BRT, and we need it in 2015.

Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, represents District 53, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, represents District 39 in the Minnesota Senate. Rep. JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury, represents District 53A, and Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, represents District 53B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.)

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/08/2015 - 08:27 am.

    Great!

    But…why do you need to convince the rest of us if we’re not paying for it? Is it because you recognize that it’s a very limited benefit at the cost of other locations for the federal dollars that will fund half?

    I’d love to see decent transit options from the north and northwest metro. Sadly, all buses run through downtown Minneapolis. And the Maple Grove system is a joke–designed to siphon funds away from a more central system, and which forces workers to work downtown during very, VERY limited hours. For more cost than a central system. Subsidized, of course. The Southwest transit is slightly better as for convenience, but it certainly isn’t nearly as cost effective. Will the Gold Line be another MG or SW transit? I am glad to hear that it’s not just going to be designed to shuttle people one way like MG and SW. Will the hours work? It’s all well and nice to say you want transit, but are you committed to transit that helps other people reach their destinations, too?

    The Twin Cities is sorely in need of a comprehensive transit system–one which minimizes individual auto reliance and increases overall mobility and reliability, while also increasing flexibility. A combination of bus and train is the best answer, but I would guess that the individuals that wrote this article oppose train options. But, you see, bus is far less reliable than train, so what exactly does this get you in January? It can’t just be “fiscally prudent” in view of simply spending less. It has to work. All the time. Every time. It’s not fiscally prudent to buy something that doesn’t meet your needs. No matter how relatively cheap. BRT might be the “Locally Preferred Alternative” (I like how that’s capitalized…and alternative to what?!), but is it the best long term solution. Is it the solution that doesn’t have to be scrapped for something else later? Personally, I don’t believe that anyone has thought long and hard enough about this due to the kneejerk rejection of certain other options for various reasons. Maybe BRT is the answer, but I highly doubt it.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/08/2015 - 11:01 am.

      Yes, it’s the comprehensive planning that is lacking

      Planners need to ask themselves these questions:

      1. How does this line fit in with other lines?

      2. Does the system serve all major population centers, all arterial streets and roads, and all major destinations well?

      3. Do buses/trains run frequently enough so that passengers don’t have to wait 1/2 hour in bad weather?

      4. Do transfers work smoothly, or (see #3)?

      5. Is the mode on each line appropriate for its function?

      6. Does the system as a whole make it possible for non-drivers to live a full life?

      7. Is there adequate service at night and on weekends to serve our 24/7 lifestyles?

  2. Submitted by Joseph Totten on 05/08/2015 - 09:15 am.

    It’s been Mulled Over a Little

    I mean, the LPA selection document alone is 259 pages of discussion.

    The Gold Line has been referred to as the Gateway corridor for the past many years, so it does get confusing.

    Here it is (warning large document) http://www.thegatewaycorridor.com/documents/2015/LPA%20Selection%20Summary%20Report%20March%202015%20(1).pdf

  3. Submitted by Jim Buscher on 05/08/2015 - 10:26 am.

    Price tag

    No mention of the $400+ million price tag for this line either. A fancy bus route shouldn’t cost almost half an LRT line. I know they are rebuilding a lot of roads for this, but what a waste. This line won’t carry a fraction of the riders the Green or Blue line do.

    Let’s build some street car and more LRT lines inside MSP borders. Not ridiculously over priced bus lines to the suburbs. The Red Line is a complete flop. The Gold Line doesn’t look much better.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 05/08/2015 - 12:11 pm.

      You could fit 5 Gold Lines into the cost of ONE SWLR !!

      So yeah, it’s expensive, but a few or several could be used to distribute services over a wide area – with MANY MORE STOPS than a SWLR = more convenience for more people.

      The Red Line terminus is at the Mall of America – not downtown, which is a HUGE difference, and so this comparison is not useful.

  4. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 05/08/2015 - 10:55 am.

    #nonewroads

    This will end up being like the Red Line, a complete failure that serves a transit-hostile suburban land use that doesn’t welcome it in the first place. Much of the Red Line (Apple Valley) project budget went to enhancing car commutes rather than transit commutes: Widening Cedar Avenue, adding double left turn lanes, stoplights with newer sensors, closing full accesses along Cedar, etc. Transit dollars should not be paying for car commuters.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/08/2015 - 01:10 pm.

      Great

      So what then is your alternative. People live there, they aren’t all suddenly going to pull up stakes and relocate to the urban core, no matter how much you think they should. If your aim is as your hash tag suggests what do you plan to do to make it happen. You aren’t going to get rail if the communities in question don’t want it, you cannot put up a wall to keep them from working in your precious cities. If you think you will just be able to stonewall and force them to sit in ever worsening congestion out of spite I suggest you look to recent electoral results as a guide. It’s a stupid hill to defend, you aren’t going to get a comprehensive transit system by pretending the suburbs are going to magically diasppear, or that by starving their residents of transit options you’ll force their abandonment. You may not notice, but great many more people in this metro live outside of Mpls/St. Paul than within, you might bear that in mind as you go forward.

      • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 05/08/2015 - 05:07 pm.

        We can apportion lane-miles by price or by queue, when there is a shortage. That means there can be congestion or there can be tolls. We need to toll all of our urban freeway capacity. It needs to be dynamically priced so people pay more to use freeway capacity at peak times.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/08/2015 - 08:39 pm.

          Hey who knows?

          Maybe you think putting state governance back in the hands of those hell bent on doing the utter opposite of what you’d like is a GOOD idea. But hey, they like making the middle class suffer too, so maybe it’s right up your alley. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not an opinion based in any way on how the realities of the situation would play out.

  5. Submitted by Rip Gates on 05/08/2015 - 03:50 pm.

    Planning Another Vacation?

    Last summer, thirty Gateway (gold) people went on a vacation to Los Angeles to ride their transit. Where do they plan to go this summer with the new planning money?

    Existing east metro express buses run on I-94, using the shoulder at times to get around traffic. The routes fan out into the suburbs in ways a single Gateway line never could (express 294, limited stop 350, express 351, express 353, express 355, & express 375).

    The existing express buses don’t require residential Hudson Road in St. Paul to become a bus lane, forcing people out of their homes.

    Woodbury wanted Gateway as a way to sell the old State Farm property. That property is now under construction without Gateway. What’s the development excuse now? Developing the farm fields of Lake Elmo and eastern Woodbury?!?

    How much planning money do they need? Gateway gave $1.5 million to CH2M Hill (Englewood, CO). They gave about $3 million to Kimley Horn (Raleigh, NC). And they gave over $200,000 to Jeff Dehler Public Relations (Crystal, MN). Add the 30 air flights and hotel expenses in Los Angeles. That’s why it’s called the gold line.

    Former Reps. Andrea Kieffer and Kathy Lohmer polled their constituents, who replied they didn’t want Gateway. Have you polled your constituents?

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