Gold Line development coming to east metro through new bus corridor is still years away – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The launch of a new bus rapid transit line serving the east metro is still three years away, but it’s already spurring development.

This summer in Oakdale, construction is expected to start on affordable apartments with 71 units for people with low income or who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the Gold Line is the catalyst.

“We want our residents to be near transportation,” said Kristine Giornalista, senior director of Real Estate Development for AbleLight Cornerstone Village, which will build its second metro location adjacent to a planned transit stop at 4th Street and Helmo Avenue. “A lot of people with disabilities can’t drive or afford a car. Having reliable public transportation is a huge bonus.”

The $26 million complex, which also will include 21 market-rate units, will be the first new project to spring up along the bus line that starting in 2025 will provide all-day service along a 10-mile corridor between downtown St. Paul and Woodbury. But it is unlikely to be the last.

A new report from Metro Transit found that between 2003 and 2020 developers have spent more than $15 billion on multifamily housing and commercial construction along light-rail and bus rapid transit lines and along local bus routes with high frequency service.

Another $9.5 billion in development is planned along high-frequency transit and rail lines, representing two-thirds of development planned for the region. The new development will add another 35,200 multifamily units and double the number of residences with immediate access to transit that runs every 15 minutes or fewer, the report said.

“You see more and more development going in,” said Amy Yoder, a planner in Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development office. “I’m excited about the Gold Line. Developers are excited because of the benefits to residents and their community.”

Giornalista said AbleLight was searching for an east metro location and said the new bus line was the selling point.

“Oakdale said, ‘We have this opportunity for you with the Gold Line coming through,'” she said. “We value transportation as an organization. That checked the boxes.”

The Gold Line will be the first rapid bus line in the metro to operate in dedicated lanes. The lanes, similar to the transit path connecting the University of Minnesota and the State Fairgrounds, will be built along Interstate 94 and allow buses to make trips without having to mingle with freeway traffic. Buses will run every 10 to 15 minutes.

“You won’t need a schedule,” said Christine Beckwith, the Gold Line project director. “You will be able to show up at a station and catch a bus.”

As part of the $505.3 million project, the 4th Street bridge over Interstate 694 in Oakdale will be rebuilt and a new bridge with space for buses, vehicles and pedestrians will be built over I-94 to connect Oakdale and Woodbury.

After nearly 950 meetings of transit planners, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and county officials over the past five years, Metro Transit has the green light to put the project out for bid. The hope is construction can begin later this year.

“This is a really exciting time for the Gold Line,” Beckwith said. “This will connect the east metro to the Green Line and the Blue Line and the rest of the Metro system. There is good, express service in the east metro, but this gives commuters another option and great access to jobs and housing.”