A bus rapid transit route that will run on one of the state’s busiest roadways received federal approval Friday to begin to be developed.
It was a critical step forward for the Orange Line, which will connect residents in Bloomington, Burnsville, Minneapolis and Richfield to job and retail hubs. It is expected to begin operating in 2019.
The rapid buses will also ease road congestion run along a 17-mile corridor of Hwy. I-35W. The roadway has been one of the most heavily traveled express bus routes since the 1970s, according to Metro Transit. Currently, 14,000 daily riders use buses there.
By 2030, there will likely be 20,000 people using the bus systems along the corridor, said Christina Morrison, a Metro Transit senior planner.
The project is anticipated to cost $150 million. So far, state and local agencies have committed $11 million to the project and federal authorities designated $7 million.
With the Federal Transit Administration’s approval this week, Metro Transit, along with other agencies, can begin detailed design, engineering and environmental work on the project -- like designing stations, fare collection and the fleet, Morrison said.
Near the end of 2016, officials will hear from the FTA whether they have secured an additional $64 million, Morrison said. The Counties Transit Improvement Board is expected to pay 30 percent of the $150 million. The state and Met Council will cover 10 percent and another 10 percent will come from local counties and cities, she said.
Construction is to begin in 2017.
This will be the second highway bus rapid transit line in the region, following the Red Line that runs from the Mall of America to Apple Valley.