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Orange Line bus rapid transit awarded $74 million from federal government

November 28, 2018

The Orange Line bus rapid transit (BRT) is on track for completion in 2021 with funding from the federal government that was announced Wednesday.

Its thrilling news, said Charles Carlson, BRT projects director. The project has one remaining minor step before the funding is released in the next couple of months, Carlson said in an interview along with Christina Morrison, Orange Line project manager.

The funding culminates the resuscitation of the line between Minneapolis and Burnsville, which was imperiled at times by funding snags at the state and county levels.

The new federal money covers half the $150 million cost. The other half has already been approved and came from a variety of sources closer to home, including Hennepin and Dakota counties as well as the states bonding bills.

The 17-mile Orange Line will run along Interstate 35W, the regions busiest express bus corridor that now sees more than 200,000 cars and trucks daily. The corridor sees 14,000 transit rides per day, a number projected to surpass 25,000 as options increase, according to the Metropolitan Council.

Bus-rapid transit service is similar to light rail. Passengers pay before boarding. Buses arrive frequently every 10 minutes during peak times. The buses also use dedicated transitways to avoid traffic. Unlike light rail, the Orange Line BRT has seen bipartisan support.

The Orange Line route along I-35W links business headquarters from Burnsvilles Heart of the City to Best Buy in Richfield, the Southtown Shopping Center in Bloomington and Target Corp. in downtown Minneapolis. Buses will travel on Marquette and Second avenues downtown.

The new BRT line will have stations at Lake Street, 46th, 66th and 76th streets south, American Boulevard, 98th Street South, Nicollet Avenue and Burnsville Parkway. The project will include a transit-only underpass of Interstate 494 with direct access to Best Buy headquarters.

Some construction of the Orange Line and its Lake Street station has already begun as part of Minnesota Department of Transportations upgrade of I-35W in south Minneapolis.

Morrison said the completion of the Orange Line will create a comprehensive multimodal corridor from downtown to the southern suburbs.

Federal Transit Authority Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams announced the selection of the Orange Line project in a conference call, noting the grant was the full amount that had been sought and that the federal government is working really closely with the Twin Cities on the project.

Minneapolis was one of five grant recipients announced Thursday. Others were the Tempe Streetcar project in Arizona; the Los Angeles Westside Purple Line Extension Section 3 project and the San Diego Mid-Coast Light Rail Extension project in California; and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Red and Blue Line Platform Extensions project.

Rochelle Olson 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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