The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced it will be fully funding the federal share of $74.1 million for the METRO Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, a 17-mile transitway planned for the region’s busiest express bus corridor. The announcement means the $150.7 million project has now secured all funding, and can move into the final stage of construction. As a part of the METRO system, the Orange Line will connect people across the region to job centers, including major corridor employers like Best Buy, HealthPartners, Allina, Wells Fargo, and Toro.
“This is great news! The Orange Line BRT project is a critical part of building a 21st Century transportation system in Minnesota,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “This bus rapid transit route will provide better, faster transit services for over 115,000 area residents, reduce congestion, and support continued economic growth throughout the region.”
BRT will connect Minneapolis to Burnsville
The Orange Line will connect Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington, and Burnsville along I-35W, providing frequent, all-day service in both directions, seven days a week. The route is an upgrade and will replace the existing local Route 535 with enhanced service and amenities, and new station features will benefit other transit riders along the I-35W corridor. Today, this corridor sees 14,000 daily transit rides and over 200,000 auto vehicles.
“We are delighted to continue making progress on our region’s transit system,” said Alene Tchourumoff, Chair of the Metropolitan Council. “The Orange Line will improve mobility for tens of thousands of people who rely on transit on a weekly basis. It will also improve the traveling experience for hundreds of thousands, who commute along I-35W each day. This announcement is further evidence that the Council is a model for its ability to collaborate with partners to plan, design, and operate efficient transit projects.”
BRT provides access to jobs
The Orange Line will provide access to 198,000 jobs and 121,000 residents, including 56,000 jobs outside of downtown Minneapolis. Construction on the project is already underway, in coordination with MnDOT projects. The construction began in 2017 after the FTA issued a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) approval for the joint MnDOT construction, ahead of the full federal funding commitment. This process is the same process the Southwest LRT project is using to enter construction this winter, ahead of receiving the full federal funding commitment.
Collaborative partnerships are key to success
“Orange Line has been successful because of our ability to collaborate with a range of great partners, including the cities along the line, Dakota and Hennepin County, MnDOT, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, and the strong bi-partisan support from local elected officials, state officials, and our federal delegation,” said Chair Tchourumoff.
The Orange Line project includes street and highway improvements, upgraded transit stations, and improved bus routes. BRT provides high quality, reliable service like light rail transit; because it is built on an existing guideway, it is less expensive to build. It also includes a transit-only access ramp between downtown Minneapolis and I-35W and a new Lake Street Station, which is part of the work already under construction. The project is scheduled to open by 2021. A future extension of the Orange Line to Lakeville is also envisioned in future years.
In addition to the federal funding, local funding is provided by the former Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), the State of Minnesota, the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County, and Dakota County. For more information about the project, funding commitments, a map of the route, and more, visit the Orange Line website at https://www.metrotransit.org/metro-orange-line