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November 20, 2014

I-35W Bus Rapid Transit plan moves forward with federal approval of METRO Orange Line

Plans to expand the METRO system with a Bus Rapid Transit line on Interstate 35W are moving forward. The METRO Orange Line has received approval to enter project development from the Federal Transit Administration.

Set to open in 2019, the Orange Line will bring fast, frequent and reliable bus service to the I-35W corridor, as well as station and roadway improvements. The Orange Line will run 17 miles between downtown Minneapolis and Burnsville, one of the region’s most heavily-traveled express bus corridors with about  14,000 daily express bus rides. 

“The Orange Line is a critical part of our region’s growing transit network,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “All-day BRT service on I-35W will help thousands of residents easily connect to job, housing and retail centers in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington, Burnsville and beyond, while providing much-needed congestion relief on one of the state's busiest roadways.” 

The FTA’s approval to enter project development comes ahead of more advanced design, engineering and environmental work that will continue through 2016. Construction will begin in 2017. 

Metro Transit is leading the Orange Line project in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hennepin and Dakota counties, the cities of Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville, and the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority. The project is eligible to seek funding through the FTA’s Small Starts program, which covers up to half the cost of transitway projects of less than $250 million.

The Orange Line will leverage previous investments along the I-35W corridor, including the bus-only Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis, MnPASS lanes and the I-35W & 46th Street Station

New, enhanced stations will be built at Lake Street, 66th Street, 76th Street, American Boulevard and 98th Street. There will also be service to the Burnsville Transit Station area. Each new station will include amenities like on-demand heat, ticket vending machines, real-time transit information and security features.

Traffic signal technologies, an underpass bringing Knox Avenue beneath I-494 and the use of 60-foot, low-floor buses with three entries will make service more efficient. The Orange Line and other transit services on I-35W will also benefit from a new southbound MnPASS lane between downtown Minneapolis and 42nd Street.

“The Orange Line combines the service quality and reliability of light rail transit with the cost savings and flexibility of bus transit,” said Adam Duininck, the Council’s Transportation Committee Chair. “It truly is the best of both worlds.” 

The Orange Line will be the region’s second highway BRT line, following the opening of the METRO Red Line between the Mall of America and Apple Valley in 2013. Highway BRT and light rail transit are part of the METRO system, a network of transitways with frequent, all-day station-to-station service.

There are now three regional transitways in project development. The Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT) and Blue Line Extension (Bottineau Transitway) are also in project development. Those light rail lines are set to open in 2019 and 2021, respectively. 

Contact: Howie Padilla, Metro Transit, 612-349-7089, howie.padilla@metrotransit.org

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