Scott County’s first full-fledged transit station opens Monday, and will expand to offer BlueXpress service next spring.
A gleaming new bus station that has sat partly empty for nearly a year will begin serving riders on Monday. But it will be several more months before the Shakopee station offers express commuter service.
“What we expect is that this will be a hub of operations for the area,” said Lisa Freese, the transportation program director for Scott County.
The station will serve as the connection point for local bus routes in Shakopee. And next spring, the county will offer expanded BlueXpress commuter bus service to Minneapolis out of the station.
“We’ll be able to offer more service, more frequency of service, and midday service that will enable folks to get home at times other than the p.m. peak period,” Freese said. “We have a lot of folks who want to use this site because it’s more convenient. They can walk.”
The station isn’t just for commuters and bus-dependent travelers. Land to Air Express (http://www.landtoairexpress.com/), a private company, begins offering shuttle service to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport from the station on Friday.
And if riders are looking for a chance to test out the station, this summer is a great time: the county will offer weekend and Labor Day bus service to the Minnesota State Fair.
A sound investment
Located in a former auto dealership where Marschall Road meets Hwy. 169, the station — which includes, for the first time in Scott County, an indoor, heated waiting area — has been in the works since the county purchased the property three years ago.
The station cost just over $6.6 million. About $4.1 million was offset by funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and most of the rest was funded by Scott County. That includes the cost of purchasing and retrofitting the property, and building a bus-only ramp to Hwy. 169.
“It was an economical decision for the county to do this,” said Lezlie Vermillion, the Scott County deputy administrator. “It was the reuse of a building, and so the investment we put in really was quite low.”
Officials had originally hoped to have the station fully operational in 2014. But the project was delayed because the design and government-approval process took longer than expected, Vermillion said.
“When you do projects like this, you run into a little extra time it takes to design it and design it right,” Vermillion said. “There are just issues you have to resolve during the design process and it takes time and coordination to get that stuff done.”
In addition to serving as a bus station and as a garage facility for local buses, the building houses the administrative offices for the county’s central library and the SmartLink Transit service.
Those offices moved to the space in September 2013. But getting bus service off the ground at the station has taken longer. Local buses have just started stopping there. BlueXpress bus service will not begin operating out of the facility until next spring because the county is waiting for six new buses to be delivered.
With such a large parking lot sitting unused, the facility can look abandoned. Some residents were beginning to wonder whether the station was ever going to be used.
“It seems like it’s been sitting there idle for a while,” said Tom Tomashek, a Shakopee resident. “The thought crossed my mind that maybe it is open and no one is using it yet.”
Because he works in a nearby suburb, Tomashek said he isn’t likely to use the station. But he’s still glad the county built it.
“I think it’s great for the community,” Tomashek said. “It’s just set to grow, so setting this up now it’s something that can be used in the future.”