Construction officially began Wednesday on the $505 million Gold Line bus-rapid transit project — the first public transit line of its kind in the region to primarily use dedicated bus lanes.

The Gold Line will link Union Depot and Woodbury, with stops on St. Paul's East Side, Maplewood, Landfall and Oakdale along the way. Service is expected to begin in 2025.

The 10-mile line will largely travel along the north side of Interstate 94 — about 70% of the route will use bus lanes, meaning service won't experience delays related to traffic congestion.

Wednesday's ceremonial groundbreaking in Woodbury served up a rare bit of good news for the Metropolitan Council, which will build and operate the line.

The regional planning body is facing fallout regarding the $2.7 billion Southwest light-rail line — which is over budget, years behind schedule, and the subject of a probe by the state's legislative auditor. And planning for the proposed Purple Line in the east metro is currently in turmoil, as Maplewood considers withdrawing its support for the bus-rapid transit project.

Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle called the Gold Line "an incredible accomplishment," noting frequent, all-day bus service will provide a "sustainable transportation option for people traveling along the Interstate 94 corridor."

In the works for nearly two decades, the Gold Line hasn't been without controversy.

In 2016, Lake Elmo officials rejected two potential stops, forcing transit planners to regroup.

Last year, the cost of the line increased by $70 million after the Federal Transit Administration, which is paying nearly half the line's construction bill, requested more parking for the project. Now, there will be access to park-and-ride lots in St. Paul, Oakdale and Woodbury.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called the Gold Line "an incredibly important project long in the waiting. It's an exciting new chapter for this region."

Referring to the line's opening day in 2025, "that's not too bad, compared with other projects," she said.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said flexible, all-day transportation options like the Gold Line are "needed more than ever, coming out of COVID."

About 93,500 jobs are located within a half-mile of Gold Line stations — including stops near 3M's Maplewood headquarters, the Sun Ray shopping center, Tamarack Hills and Woodbury Village.

Washington County Commissioner Stan Karwoski said the Gold Line will provide a much-needed all-day transportation option for residents going to work and businesses in the area searching for workers.

Metro Transit claims the Gold Line is already attracting new commercial development in its wake, with more than $388 million in permitted construction recorded as of 2020, and another $1.2 billion planned.