Burnsville will get two Orange Line bus rapid transit stops on major commercial corridors, which officials hope will draw more people to the south-metro city.
The planned 17-mile line, which will follow Interstate 35W from downtown Minneapolis, will end in Burnsville with two stops that will be off the freeway — one on Burnsville Parkway and the other on Nicollet Avenue just south of Hwy. 13.
The Nicollet station, to be built on the other side of Hwy. 13 from the Burnsville Transit Station, will be within walking distance of Heart of the City, Burnsville’s mixed-use downtown area.
“We’re hopeful that it’s going to, No. 1, improve transit options for our businesses and residents, and then No. 2, provide more opportunity for people to come to Burnsville and work in Burnsville,” said Public Works Director Steve Albrecht.
The Dakota County Regional Railroad Authority (DCRRA) and I-35W Solutions Alliance approved the two stops — the Orange Line’s southern terminus — last month.
County commissioners, who make up the rail authority, previously raised concerns about initial plans to rout buses off the freeway to reach “offline” stations in the city. They worried it would be too much like the Red Line between Apple Valley and the Mall of America, which takes a detour at Eagan’s Cedar Grove station that some have blamed for the line’s lower-than-expected ridership.
Liz Workman, chairwoman of the DCRRA, said she was “extremely concerned” by an early plan for a single offline station on Travelers Trail in Burnsville. Leaving the station would require a series of left-hand turns, she said, and she worried that would slow down the route.
“It was my opinion it could turn into another Cedar Grove with the delay,” she said. “The word ‘rapid,’ to me, wouldn’t apply.”
When the reconfigured plans, including a second station, came back, Workman changed her mind. “That made sense to me,” she said.
The Orange Line is expected to cost about $150 million, of which Dakota County will pay about $2 million. Burnsville will likely incur costs for improvements around the stations — possibly sidewalks, on-street parking or lighting, Albrecht said.
The line is slated to open in 2019. Planning is underway for an extension farther south to Lakeville. There may also be a third station added in Burnsville, Workman said.