Until then, planners are looking at extending some form of commuter bus service — currently running as far south as Cottage Grove — down to Newport and Hastings.
HWY. 169 BUSWAY
Scott County’s decision against imposing the quarter-cent sales tax has left the possibility of a fast busway system serving its west-side commuters as a big question mark.
“The county is spending some of its own money to evaluate and understand the issues with 169,” said Deputy County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion , “and we need to have a dialogue with the Met Council the next time they update their overall plan.” The Hwy. 169 Coalition, a group stretching from Hennepin County down through the Mankato area, might tack on funding to look at connectivity to Mankato and St. Peter for long-haul commuters, she said.
“There’s nothing on the horizon and no plan for this, so it’s hard to discuss a timeline, but 2013, 2014, when the regional plan gets updated, will be the time to talk about the role of 169,” she said.
DAN PATCH LINE
Five years ago, there was a lot of interest in Scott County in overturning the legislative prohibition upon even mentioning the idea of a Dan Patch line — an idea that horrifies many in cities like Edina and
Lakeville, where high-end homes have been built right along the would-be line by folks who never dreamed it ever could carry passenger trains.
Today, the disappointing results and high subsidy costs for the region’s one commuter rail line, the Northstar line in the northwest metro area, have dampened interest in Dan Patch. The arrival of a boatload of federal dollars to jump-start the two busways on I-35W and Cedar also undercuts the rationale for the line, which would run from Northfield to downtown Minneapolis.
“Would it really generate enough riders with those other two travelsheds [I-35/Cedar and 169] sitting so close?” Vermillion asked. “When you can’t study it, can’t evaluate it, you don’t know.”
She does note, though, that it would be a river crossing, and that’s a valuable commodity. Edina is planning a major new development along the tracks, which is one reason there’s thought being given to what else might run along those tracks: a trolley, perhaps, or …
UNION PACIFIC RAIL
Railway tracks lead up from southwestern Minnesota through Shakopee to downtown St. Paul. If gas goes to $5 a gallon and beyond, who knows what interest might develop in a whole system of cross-state rail travel?
Already, a state study has ranked the Mankato-to-St. Paul stretch of the line as a Phase One project, the most hopeful category. But with a $6 billion to $10 billion pricetag for a whole statewide system, it seems a fantasy at the moment. And any line might well bypass Shakopee itself to save time.
Still, the state’s official rail plan does indicate that “the option for a high-capacity, high-speed rail transportation option is not only desirable, but affordable and even preferable as fuel prices rise and larger volumes of travelers shift to an available rail system in Minnesota and around the nation. Someday the line could link to high-speed rail to Chicago, not that the latter seems to be going anywhere these days.
SOUTHWEST CORRIDOR EXTENSION
The fact that the Bloomington Ferry Bridge was built with the structural ability to carry light-rail trains has some commuters in Scott County wondering about the potential for hopping a train all the way to downtown Minneapolis with multiple stops at big corporate sites in cities such as Minnetonka.
Dream on, say the transport professionals. Not in this millennium.