The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today awarded the Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project an important approval, one of the first steps to a transit line which would connect thousands of East Metro residents with jobs and opportunities throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan region. The FTA officially granted Gold Line entry into the project development phase of the federal New Starts program, which funds major transit projects across the country. The designation means local spending will now be eligible for potential matching federal funds in the future.
“This announcement is great news for the East Metro region and for our state. The Gold Line will improve transit choices for over a half million Minnesotans,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “It will connect workers with good jobs, encourage business expansions, and reduce commuter congestion.”
“Gold Line BRT is critical to the future development of our region,” said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum. “Gold Line will provide frequent, all-day transit service in both directions to connect people who are headed to work, school, medical appointments, to pick up their kids or to get to sporting or arts events. I am pleased the FTA has approved this important next step for this project.”
The Gold Line is a nine-mile BRT line, that will run from Woodbury, through Oakdale, Landfall, Maplewood, the East Side of Saint Paul, ultimately connecting with the Green Line LRT at Union Depot in Saint Paul. There, riders can plug into the broader transit network, serving the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport from the Blue Line LRT; to jobs in the west metro along the planned Green Line Extension LRT (Southwest LRT); to North Hennepin Community College and Target’s Northern campus in Brooklyn Park along the planned Blue Line Extension LRT (Bottineau); and to the State Capitol, downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul, as well as the University of Minnesota campus along the Green Line LRT.
The planned line includes 11 stations and will be Minnesota’s first BRT line operating primarily in a dedicated busway. For much of the route, the line will run near I-94, one of the region’s most congested stretches of highway.
“The Gold Line is a critical component of our regional transit system,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff. “A system that connects people across the region with jobs, school, and opportunities takes time to build out; but as we start to realize more of that system, the bigger vision of how transit supports a prosperous and growing region comes into focus.
“This vision is made possible by partnerships. In this case, I want to thank Washington and Ramsey Counties, as the key funders and stakeholders for this project. They continue to bring expertise and local knowledge to the project. Partnerships like these are key to our region’s success.”
East metro partnerships drive success
The Metropolitan Council now assumes responsibility for building and maintaining the line following more than eight years of work by a coalition made up of Washington and Ramsey County officials, business leaders and representatives of local cities.
As chair of the Gateway Corridor Commission, Washington County Commissioner Stan Karwoski says high quality, regular transit service connecting the region is an important feature for attracting new businesses, as well as keeping existing businesses competitive.
“All you have to do is look at the current competition for the Amazon headquarters to see that large employers want to locate near modern, efficient transit systems. In today’s world the commute goes both ways,” said Commissioner Karwoski. “You have people from the East Metro traveling into the core cities for jobs, as well as people in the rest of the region coming east to work at companies like 3M, or in the medical and hospitality industries in Washington County. Transit is an important and necessary option to connect people to jobs.”
Studies show fewer and fewer commuters are relying on cars to get around the Twin Cities metro region. Both the large aging population and the upcoming younger generation of students and workers are choosing to rely on public transit, in addition to low-income populations without access to cars. Twenty percent of the people in the Twin Cities region who do not have cars live in communities along the Gold Line corridor.
“This isn’t just a transit line, it’s a life line for working families,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega. “Neighborhoods with large numbers of transit-dependent people, and who need greater access to job opportunities across the Twin Cities region, will be connected to the region via Gold Line with state-of-the-art transit.”
With the acceptance into project development, the Gold Line team is now cleared to begin the design, engineering, environmental and community outreach work involved in building the line. That project team will continue to include staff from Metropolitan Council, Ramsey County, Washington County, and MnDOT.
The cost of the Gold Line project is currently estimated at $420 million, with half of the funding coming from the FTA. That cost estimate will be revised as the design and engineering work on the project continues. Current timelines estimate construction beginning in 2022, with rider service beginning in 2024.
About the Gateway Corridor Commission
The Gateway Corridor Commission is a coalition of local elected officials and business leaders in the east metro, which believes the Gold Line will bring jobs and economic development to the region. Additionally, business groups such as the East Side Area Business Association, the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan State University, and 3M are actively involved in supporting Gold Line, saying it will bring workers and clients to their businesses in a timely manner.
Media Contact: John Schadl at 651.602.1508 or John.Schadl@metrocouncil.org