Gov. Tim Walz addresses the media and a crowd at the METRO Orange Line groundbreaking ceremony at the Knox Avenue Park & Ride.
From General Manager Wes Kooistra
Sixty years ago next month, Twin Cities motorists celebrated the opening of the region's first freeway – a roughly 8-mile stretch of Interstate 35W from south Minneapolis to the Minnesota River.
The section of I-35W that extends from downtown Minneapolis through the south metro is among the busiest roadways in Minnesota. As downtown Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville continue to grow, it's only going to get busier, too.
Which is why, more than a half-century after I-35W opened, we're eager to make transit the most attractive transportation option for commuters and all those who travel along this corridor.
And that's exactly what we're doing. On Wednesday, July 17, local, state and federal partners gathered to celebrate the execution of a federal grant that will go toward the METRO Orange Line, a 17-mile Bus Rapid Transit line on I-35W.
Like other BRT services the Orange Line will operate every 10 to 15 minutes and serve high-quality stations at key locations, including I-35W and 46th Street and Burnsville's Heart of the City.
Several features of the Orange Line have already been completed or are being built, including a new station in the center of I-35W at Lake Street. A new transitway under I-494 will be under construction beginning this summer and work on new stations will be underway next year.
We expect the Orange Line to open in late 2021, as the state wraps up road repairs and bridge work along I-35W.
When open, the Orange Line will help people reach hundreds of thousands of jobs downtown – many outside the downtown core – at all times of the day. Residential and commercial development is already occurring at future station areas where plans to support walking, biking and transit are also taking shape.
Customers will find Orange Line service to be significantly more convenient and reliable, too.
A bus-only ramp to southbound I-35W, new southbound MnPASS lanes and the I-494 transitway will provide significant transit advantages. Like the C Line, the Orange Line will also feature more spacious 60-foot buses that allow all-door boarding and off-board fare payments.
While the Orange Line will be the centerpiece of our I-35W service, all those who use transit in this corridor should be excited about what's ahead.
A new bus-only ramp from 12th Street to I-35W will allow hundred of buses to avoid congestion exiting downtown each weekday. This fall, we'll seek input on improvements to dozens of local routes that will connect with the Orange Line.
The milestone we celebrated last week wouldn't have been possible without the dedication of many employees throughout the organization, community support or the backing of our local, state and federal partners.
Thank you to all those who brought us to this point and all those who will continue to devote themselves to this critically important project. Together, we are writing a new and exciting chapter in the history of I-35W.