Gold Line bus-rapid-transit service should snake through downtown St. Paul, serving major employment hubs and entertainment and cultural hot spots, an advisory committee decided Thursday.

But the option of ending the $420 million transit line at Union Depot — Ramsey County's preference — will continue to be studied as the project moves through the planning process.

This would require passengers to funnel through the neoclassical depot, which underwent a massive $243 million restoration from 2010 to 2012.

The 9-mile Gold Line is expected to link downtown St. Paul to Woodbury, with service beginning in 2024. It is expected to be the state's first true bus-rapid transit line, meaning it will travel on a dedicated thoroughfare hugging Interstate 94 for most of the route. Other stops include those on the east side of St. Paul, Landfall, Oakdale and Maplewood.

The city of St. Paul and Washington County preferred the six-stop downtown route that ends at what is now a parking garage on Smith Avenue.

"We do feel strongly that if people come downtown, if they want to take their kids to the Science Museum, it wouldn't work if you had to walk from Union Depot," said Jane Prince, a St. Paul City Council member who is on the Gold Line Corridor Management Committee.

But Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega said Union Depot was intended to be a transportation hub. "We want to make a good effort to enhance the utility of Union Depot by having as many transportation options as possible," Ortega said. "We've got a great asset; we need to use it."

The Gold Line would still stop at Union Depot, but only outside near the Green Line light-rail.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752 @MooreStrib