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Gov. Tim Pawlenty beeped the horn as U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters sat in the drivers seat of a hybrid bus Thursday as part of a news conference where the two announced details of the plans for the I-35W stretch between the southern suburbs and downtown Minneapolis, which will include more bus capacity.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

State gets federal aid to ease traffic congestion

  • Article by: JIM FOTI
  • Star Tribune
  • June 12, 2008 - 10:24 PM

Starting next summer, commuting in the south metro will get a new look: bus rapid transit will run on Cedar Avenue, new Park & Ride lots and hybrid buses will appear and, by 2010, high occupancy toll lanes will show up on Interstate 35W between Lakeville and Minneapolis.

All of it is possible because of a $133 million federal grant to fight traffic congestion between downtown Minneapolis and the southern suburbs. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters came to town Thursday to seal the deal on a grant first announced in August 2007.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the plan, which includes a $55 million match from the state, will give commuters "a basket of options" for avoiding congestion.

Minnesota's Legislature was required to approve the state's contribution within 90 days of the beginning of the session, and Peters and Pawlenty praised the cooperative spirit that allowed that to happen. "You all are such leaders," Peters said.

The grant requires most elements of the Minnesota plan to be in place by September 2009. Wider bus lanes in downtown Minneapolis have until December 2009, while a section of special high-occupancy toll lanes in south Minneapolis and Richfield has a deadline of fall 2010 because it's part of the ongoing Crosstown Commons reconstruction project.

The plan also includes traffic signals that will stay green for approaching buses and more real-time communication systems to inform drivers about commuting times.

The Twin Cities is the first metro area to receive its money.

Peters said that nearly 30 cities applied for the money, and the other four initially chosen were Miami, Seattle, New York City and San Francisco. Because New York's state government did not allow the city to charge drivers a fee to enter part of Manhattan, its grant is being reallocated to Chicago and Los Angeles, she said.

Jim Foti • 612-673-4491

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