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.
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