Bus Line Planned for St. Paul, White Bear Lake Takes Step Forward

October 09, 2018 11:25 PM

A plan to connect St. Paul and White Bear Lake with a 14-mile long bus route is moving forward.

The Rush Line Bus Rapid Transit project has been in the works for years but about a week and a half ago, it took a big step forward. It moved into the environmental review stage.

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“What are impacts on traffic, parking, business access?” said Andrew Gitzlaff, the Ramsey County senior transportation planner. “Those sorts of things, they all get looked at through this process.”

RELATED: Bus Lane Pilot Program Begins on Hennepin Avenue

The 21-stop line will connect Lowertown to downtown White Bear Lake. Once it’s up and running, it will operate seven-days-a-week and arrive at stops every 10 minutes during rush hour.

“It will have dedicated lanes to have that reliability and travel time and speed, and upgraded stations and shelters,” said Gitzlaff.

The stations will have heat, fare payment machines and real-time departure signs.

Gitzlaff told us they have decided where to locate the stops.

“There are over 100,000 jobs along the corridor; there are also 100,000 residents within walking distances,” said Gitzlaff. “There are 14 different medical institutions and clinics along the line so the ability to position this line to help the East Metro and Northeast Metro to grow is tremendous.”

They also added stops, with one near Cook Avenue in St. Paul and another on Buerkle Road in Vadnais Heights. The Buerkle Road stop is expected to create access to more than 3,000 jobs.

“People might not have the ability to have a car but to work at all of these car businesses here, I think that's real positive there,” said Jerry Morris, the general manager of Vera Auto Sales.

There are several car dealerships between Buerkle Road and County Road East, where he is located.

There are four proposed park and ride locations; Highway 36, County Road E, Downtown White Bear Lake and Maplewood Mall Transit Center.

RELATED: Rapid Bus Routes Planned for Twin Cities 

“That’s the most positive thing right off the bat that I can see,” said Morris. “I think it would be really good for White Bear Lake.”

The owner of Jerry’s Upholstery, Jerry Udstuen, has concerns about the parking.

“Is there enough room to do it?” he asked. “I think it'll be congested and very busy.”

There is a Hyvee grocery store planned for the busy intersection at Count Road East and Route 61.

Udstuen said, however, he welcomes the bus line if there is room for it.

The environmental review process is expected to last about a year to 18 months.

According to Gitzlaff, buses won’t be running until 2026. The line will be operated by the Metropolitan Council.

MnDOT is also a partner on the project.

Gitzlaff said the bus line is expected to cost about $420 million but they anticipate about half will be paid for by federal grants.

The public can weigh in and learn about the project at two upcoming public meetings at the Ramsey County Library in White Bear Lake. The first meeting is on Thursday, Oct. 11 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The second meeting is on Friday, Oct. 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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Callan Gray

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