METRO Gold Line - Environmental Process
Environmental review and compliance is an integral component of the METRO Gold Line. All new transit projects applying for federal funding under the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts Program are required to complete an environmental review document per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). This page provides information about the environmental regulations affecting the METRO Gold Line and links to relevant environmental studies and reports.
The Alternatives Analysis was completed in February 2013. The study identified bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail transit (LRT) alternatives as best meeting the project goals and recommended that both alternatives move forward for further study. With both BRT and LRT recommended for analysis from the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul to Manning Avenue in Lake Elmo/Woodbury (approximately 12 miles), and BRT service continuing to Wisconsin (approximately seven additional miles), an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was determined to be the appropriate NEPA class of action.
The Alternatives Analysis is available on the Project Library page.
Change in NEPA Class of Action
After the Alternatives Analysis was completed, an EIS was determined to be the appropriate NEPA class of action based on multiple modes (BRT and LRT) under consideration, the number of alternatives and the length of the potential alignments. In 2013, there were multiple 22-mile BRT alternatives that affected two states, a managed lane alternative and a 12-mile LRT alternative under consideration.
Since then, through the Scoping and Locally Preferred Alternative processes, the Gateway Corridor/METRO Gold Line has reduced its geographic reach from Hudson, Wisconsin to Woodbury, Minnesota, which is a 10-mile reduction in total project length. Additionally, transit technologies under evaluation have been reduced from LRT, BRT and Managed Lanes to only BRT. These changes resulted in only one viable BRT alignment. That alignment also has a low potential for impacts because it is primarily within existing public right-of-way. Based on these changes, the FTA and WCRRA, in consultation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Council, determined that an Environmental Assessment (EA) is the appropriate NEPA class of action consistent with other projects of its scope and scale. A 10-day public comment period was held for people to comment on the change from an EIS to an EA. Three comments were received.
The Change to Environmental Process Background and the Environmental Impact Statement Termination Comment Summary are available on the Project Library page.
NEPA Scoping is a formal process to identify issues and alternatives for analysis in the NEPA document, which is either an EA or an EIS. The purpose of scoping is to identify the transportation alternatives that will be evaluated, to describe the environmental issue areas that will be assessed and to outline the public/community involvement process proposed for this project. The Scoping Decision includes information on the scoping elements described above, as well as information on the public review and comment period in 2014.
The Scoping Decision is available on the Project Library page.
Initial Locally Preferred Alternative Selection
The process to formally recommend a locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the Gateway Corridor project began after the Scoping Decision was published. The initial LPA, described as BRT generally on the Hudson Road-Hudson Boulevard alignment that crosses to the south side of I-94 between approximately Lake Elmo Avenue/Settlers Ridge Parkway and Manning Avenue, was selected in 2014 and adopted as part of the 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, the Metropolitan Council’s fiscally constrained long-range transportation policy and investment plan, in 2015. However, the City of Lake Elmo did not pass a resolution supporting the LPA.
Locally Preferred Alternative Refinements
The eastern end alignment, stations and cost were then re-evaluated (east of I-694). A new alignment that terminates at the Woodbury Theater Park & Ride was adopted as the new LPA recommendation in 2016.
The East End Alignment and Stations Technical Memorandum is available on the Project Library page.
The METRO Gold Line will complete an EA document to describe the transportation, social and environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of the project.
The METRO Gold Line Environmental Assessment is anticipated to be published in early 2019.