The Ramsey County Board committed nearly $40 million on Tuesday to support development of the Purple Line bus-rapid transit project in the east metro.
If built, the Purple Line — formerly known as the Rush Line — will connect Union Depot in downtown St. Paul to White Bear Lake and become the Twin Cities' fourth BRT line, following the Red, Orange and Gold lines.
The County Board also agreed to transfer supervision of the Purple Line to the Metropolitan Council later this year or in early 2022, a critical step needed to secure federal funding.
The Federal Transit Administration is expected to cover nearly half the cost to build the line, estimated to be between $457 million and $474 million, with Ramsey County covering the rest. Construction could begin in early 2024, with passenger service beginning in late 2026.
County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt on Tuesday recalled meeting a colleague nearly 25 years ago to discuss public transportation options in the east metro. At the time, she noted, those options were "nonexistent," a scenario that has since changed.
The Rush Line was originally envisioned to connect St. Paul with Hinckley, Minn., about 80 miles to the north, but over the years the route has been pared considerably. The current iteration links St. Paul's downtown and East Side with Maplewood, Vadnais Heights, Gem Lake, White Bear Township and White Bear Lake.
"This has been quite a ride, and it's not done yet," said Reinhardt, who characterized the transfer of the project to the Met Council as a "momentous occasion."
Not everyone is supportive of the line. A group called the No Rush Line Coalition has collected more than 4,500 signatures opposing it.
"We don't oppose public transit; we do oppose transit that's not a good fit for our community," said Tim David of White Bear Lake.
Some oppose the line because they fear it will spoil the small-town charm of White Bear Lake. Others say projections that up to 7,400 people will use the line daily by 2040 — figures gathered before the COVID-19 pandemic — are outdated, and they question whether a major transit project is needed as more people work remotely.
Some dislike the fact that part of the route will operate on the popular Bruce Vento Regional Trail, running alongside cyclists and pedestrians.
"When people hear about this project they are amazed and appalled," David said, noting the group will continue to oppose the line as it's developed.
Janet Moore • 612-673-7752