BRT not LRT for Gateway Corridor - (East Side edition)

Bus rapid transit will be the main focus moving forward for the Gateway Corridor -- it was picked as the preferred transit mode by the corridor’s Policy Advisory Committee. BRT would operate in its own dedicated roadway, similar to the Orange Line in Los Angeles pictured here. (submitted photo)

An outline of the Gateway Corridor shows it passing along the north side of Interstate 94 through the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood into downtown St. Paul. Corridor studies moving forward will focus on putting in a bus rapid transit line to serve commuters from the eastern suburbs. (submitted graphic)

Move over light rail, bus rapid transit will be the focus from now on for the Gateway Corridor.

The Gateway Corridor Commission picked the mode of transportation, which uses buses along a dedicated roadway, over light rail and other types of bus transportation.

Andy Gitzlaff, senior planner for Washington County and point person for the project, said the choice of BRT had a lot to do with cost.

“BRT has the potential to move the same amount of riders and potentially more for less than half the costs of (light rail transit),” he said in an email.

The 12-mile Gateway Corridor route would go between Union Depot in St. Paul and Woodbury, passing through the East Side’s Dayton’s Bluff and Conway neighborhoods as well as Maplewood, Oakdale and Lake Elmo.

Gizlaff said the BRT project would use public right-of-way whenever possible, be it using an existing roadway, or a separate road dedicated to BRT next to an existing road.

On its current trajectory, a line could be up and running in 2022.

The Gateway Corridor Commission will make a draft environmental impact statement, which will be refined in the months leading up to April 2015. From there, it would be four years of engineering prior to any construction.

“A train on rubber”

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens believes communities will support the selection of BRT over LRT. In a press statement, she likened BRT to “a train on rubber tires.”

Tim Herman, director of the East Side Business Association, said he was slightly disappointed that LRT would not be the focus, but added that based on the projected ridership statistics, BRT made more sense.

Herman also sits on the Gateway Corridor Commission. He questioned the ridership projections, wondering if they were too modest.

“But based on information we do have ... those are the numbers we can respectfully stand behind,” Herman said -- numbers that point to BRT.

Development potential

Nonetheless, Herman said BRT looks favorable for the East Side.

“I’m pretty optimistic about the economic development opportunities,” he said, citing the fact that BRT would be along a dedicated road.

Herman said he was part of a group that went out to Los Angeles to see a bus rapid transit line there, called the Orange Line, which could be a model for BRT in the Twin Cities.

He said it seemed similar to LRT to him, and was impressed by the success of the system -- the line moved an estimated 675,901 people in June 2014.

Speak your mind

A public hearing on the plan will take place Aug. 7 at Conway Recreation Center, 2090 Conway St., at 6 p.m. -- there, residents can provide input about their preferred transit mode,    route and end points. This input will play into a final recommendation made by the Gateway Corricor Commission on Aug. 14.

That recommendation will be included in the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Policy Plan, which will go through additional public review and will likely be finalized in December. Its inclusion in the regional plan should make it more competitive for federal funds.

Through the East Side

For now, the corridor’s trajectory through the East Side is roughly sketched out, Gitzlaff said -- the concept is that it would go along Hudson Road along the north side of I-94.

But the specifics are yet to come -- “Whether the actual design will be at freeway level or at street level in some areas and whether the buses will operate in a dedicated ‘guideway’ or dedicated lanes integrated into Old Hudson Road is yet to be determined,” Gitzlaff said.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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