First of its kind bus rapid transit line coming to I-35W next fall

Josie Smith
Updated: December 29, 2020 06:51 PM
Created: December 29, 2020 01:13 PM

While the pandemic has forced a lot of things to slow down, it’s been a busy year for road construction and transit projects. With that comes the hope that things may eventually get back to normal. 

If you have taken a trip along I-494 in Bloomington recently, it's hard to miss all the construction that's happening near I-35W. Metro Transit says crews are in the process of building a tunnel that will go underneath I-494. 

"With tunnel construction in particular, we’ve completed the entire north half of the tunnel," Charles Carson, with MnDOT, said. "We’ve shifted all the freeway traffic onto the completed half. And now we’ve been excavating and preparing the construction on the south half."

Metro Transit has plans to bring a first of its kind bus rapid transit line to I-35W. 

"The Orange Line will be the first line that operates in a freeway environment using MnPASS express lanes. So we’ll be able to have congestion-free travel thanks to those MnPASS Lanes from Burnsville to Minneapolis," says Charles Carson.  

Bus rapid transit has fewer stops and provides service so frequent you won’t need a schedule. The Knox Avenue Transitway or tunnel that’s being built under I-494, will connect the Knox Avenue and American Boulevard station in Bloomington to the Knox Avenue and 76th Street Station in Richfield. Passengers there will have easy access to Southtown and other businesses. While Metro Transit officials are staying optimistic, bus ridership has been down 63% due to the pandemic. Light Rail Blue and Green Lines are down about 70%. Northstar Commuter Rail has seen the biggest drop: 96% since March. 

"We’re anticipating a return to a more sense of normal ridership in the future, and that’s really what we’re constructing and preparing for. Whether a pandemic or not, what people are looking for is a fast and reliable way to get around and through Bus Rapid Transit, we’re able to provide that across our system," says Charles Carson. 

Metro Transit says a ticket on the Orange Line will cost the same as local bus and light rail. The Orange Line will begin welcoming passengers starting next fall. 

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