In early 2013, the Gateway Corridor Commission wrapped up a Transit Alternatives Analysis Study (AA), spanning nearly two years, which reviewed numerous options to improve transit in the I-94 corridor from downtowns St. Paul – Minneapolis to western Wisconsin. After extensive analysis and considerable public involvement from business leaders and residents in the community, the Gateway Corridor Commission identified two options – a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line along Hudson Road from St. Paul to Woodbury – as the best options for the region. More information on the decision making process and the preferred alternatives can be found here.
Both BRT and LRT options have the same station stops, service plans and are expected to generate approximately 9,000 riders per day. The BRT or LRT service would work in conjunction with existing local and express bus routes to provide convenient all day service to key destinations along I-94.
The next phase of the study – preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) – will begin in early 2013. The purpose of the DEIS is to assess and inform decision-makers and the public of the social, economic and environmental impact of a dedicated BRT or LRT line from downtown St. Paul to Woodbury. Following the assessment, refinements will be made to the transit plans in order to ensure the proposed transitway provides the most benefit to the people that live and work in the corridor, with the least possible impact.
The first phase of the DEIS will revisit and reassess the findings of the AA study and make any necessary revisions to BRT and LRT transit options. Community stakeholders, including local businesses and community organizations in the corridor will be involved throughout this process with opportunities to provide input at each phase.
In August 2010, the Gateway Corridor Commission initiated a Transit Alternatives Analysis Study (AA), to look at the I-94 corridor from St. Paul – Minneapolis to western Wisconsin. This was the first step in determining the best mode (i.e., light rail, commuter rail or bus rapid transit); estimated ridership, possible routes and stops, and projected costs to build, operate and maintain a transit system in the region. In looking at these four main areas, the study helped to address the issues of congestion, potential economic development/revitalization and environmental and social impacts.
The Gateway Corridor Commission approved eight transit options in the fall of 2011 for detailed study based on recommendations from the Technical and Policy Advisory Committees, comments received at public open houses and community meetings. The eight alternatives included a variety of different transit technologies and routes in order to investigate a variety of options to meet the goals of the Gateway Corridor: increased mobility, provide a cost-effective transit solution, support economic development, protect the existing natural environment and community quality of life, and improve safety.
The first two alternatives were required to be part of the AA by the Federal Transit Administration and were used as baselines for comparative analysis of the other six alternatives. The remaining six alternatives were considered 'build' alternatives because they entailed significantly increased transit investments.
Eight alternatives for improving transit in the Gateway Corridor were evaluated, ranked and presented to the public in March and April 2012. The ranking was based on both technical information and community impacts. Public and agency comments helped identify changes that might increase the benefits and/or decrease the costs of some alternatives. Changes that were evaluated through this “optimization” process included slight changes to the design of the alternatives, changing or adding stations, and changing or reducing transit service frequency. The results of this evaluation led to a decision on the best alternatives for the Corridor. A summary of this process can be found here.
Below is a description and map of each alternative.
The first alternative was used as a base line for analysis and incorporated any transportation improvements to the corridor that would be in place by 2030. This included the Central Corridor LRT, maintaining the current express bus service between downtown St. Paul-Minneapolis and Woodbury, and a managed lane, similar to the MnPass lanes recently implemented in other regional freeways, between St. Paul and Minneapolis. This option included already existing and planned Park & Ride lots throughout the corridor.
View Alternative 1 Map
This alternative also served as a base for comparison and included the same elements in Alternative 1 plus upgrades to the corridor that would not require significant capital investment. Upgrades included shoulder lane improvements where necessary in order for buses to maintain speed advantages in congested areas and four new park and ride lots in Wisconsin.
View Alternative 2 Map
The third alternative would operate BRT by utilizing an exclusive bus-only lane from St. Paul to the vicinity of Manning Avenue in Woodbury/Lake Elmo. The goal of this alternative is to provide passengers with an efficient trip to their destinations throughout the corridor, at all times of the day. The bus only lane would begin at the Union Depot and utilize the north side of I-94, between the freeway and Hudson Road, and the I-94 median, where present. The exclusive bus-only lane would end in the vicinity of Manning Avenue but bus service would continue on to Eau Claire.
View Alternative 3 Map
The fourth alternative would have also operated BRT by utilizing an exclusive bus lane from St. Paul to the vicinity of Manning Avenue in Woodbury/Lake Elmo. The goal of this alternative was to get out of the I-94 right of way and provide access, at all times of the day, to where people work and live. The route travels north of I-94 into St. Paul's east side neighborhoods via East 7th Street and White Bear Avenue. The route would then continue along I-94 until Radio Drive and access local neighborhoods in Woodbury via Hudson Road and terminate in the vicinity of Manning Avenue. Express buses would operate from Manning Avenue to Eau Claire.
View Alternative 4 Map
The fifth alternative is the same route as alternative three but used LRT instead of BRT with the goal of providing passengers with an efficient trip to their destinations throughout the corridor, at all times of the day. LRT would begin at the Union Depot and utilize the north side of I-94, between the freeway and Hudson Road, and the I-94 median, where present. LRT would end in the vicinity of Manning Avenue in Woodbury/Lake Elmo but bus service would continue on to Eau Claire.
View Alternative 5 Map
The sixth option was the same route as alternative four but used LRT instead of BRT with the goal of getting out of the I-94 right of way and to provide access, at all times of the day, to where people work and live. The route traveled north of I-94 into St. Paul's east side neighborhoods via East 7th Street and White Bear Avenue. The route would then continue along I-94 until Radio Drive and access local neighborhoods in Woodbury via Hudson Road and terminate in the vicinity of Manning Avenue in Woodbury/Lake Elmo. Express buses would operate from Manning Avenue to Eau Claire.
View Alternative 6 Map
The seventh alternative incorporated commuter rail service from downtown Minneapolis to Eau Claire with service primarily during the morning and afternoon rush hours. The route would have started in Minneapolis and follow the Canadian Pacific Railway to the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul. The route would then travel on the Union Pacific route northeast through St. Paul's Payne-Phalen neighborhood, Maplewood and Oakdale. The route would continue to parallel Highway 5 into downtown Lake Elmo before veering south of Bayport and crossing the St. Croix River on an existing rail bridge into North Hudson. The route would then continue north of I-94 to Eau Claire.
View Alternative 7 Map
The eighth alternative would have used managed lanes, similar to the MnPass lanes recently implemented in other regional freeways, between St. Paul-Minneapolis and the St. Croix River Bridge. The managed lane would have allowed for use by personal vehicles that meet specific criteria (i.e. carpoolers, those who pay a toll) as well as buses. The benefit to this alternative was that the transit improvements would accommodate both personal vehicles and transit users.
View Alternative 8 Map
Community and business outreach is a valued part of the Gateway Corridor study process. Staff is available to present at any community meeting or event. Please submit a request on the contact us page if you would like us at your next meeting.