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Continued: Dakota County starting to question its return on transit

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 5, 2014 - 10:58 PM

The most recent figures available on the contribution of each county to the transit alliance shows that in 2012: Washington contributed about $6 million or just under 6 percent of the total; Anoka contributed about $9 million or just under 9 percent of the total; Dakota contributed $13 million or just over 12 percent of the total; Ramsey’s contribution was about $18 million for about 17 percent of the total and Hennepin, the most populous county, put in about $58 million or 55 percent of the total.

Buses main transportation

Lacking the population density and ridership that is critical to attract billions for rail lines in the central cities and western suburbs, Dakota is being connected to the metro transit system by comparatively less expensive bus lines on Cedar Avenue and Interstate Hwy. 35W.

On Dakota’s future wish list of transit improvements is a $14.6 million stop built in the freeway median on the Cedar busway to eliminate a slow trip off the freeway to the Eagan station that is hampering ridership.

On I-35W, Metro Transit plans to open bus rapid transit service from downtown Minneapolis to Lakeville in 2019. At some point, Dakota plans to extend the Red Line line south to Lakeville.

And it will pursue a transit upgrade for Robert Street in West St. Paul, although officials have not yet decided whether they prefer a $370 million streetcar line or a $27 million premium bus service.

“We are wide open to a streetcar,’’ McLaughlin said. “We made a specific provision to allow a streetcar on Robert Street specifically to accommodate Dakota County.”

Even if a streetcar is chosen, the cost of all Dakota projects combined are “relatively small potatoes,” compared to billions that would be spent on the proposed southwest and northwest Hennepin County light-rail lines, Egan said.

A decision on Robert Street is expected later this summer and that could prompt a County Board discussion about whether to stay in the joint powers board. Or the board could talk about that when transit funding is addressed by the 2014 legislature, commissioners said.

If the county decides to withdraw from CTIB, rules would require Dakota to continue its tax support until all of the bonds issued by the group while the county was a member are paid off. But a withdrawal would end its commitment to provide tax support future projects.

 

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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