The proposed Metro Transit B Line between Saint Paul and Minneapolis is rolling toward Metropolitan Council approval this fall. Its latest stop was on September 20 at the Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC), which unanimously approved proposed station areas and gave city staff the opportunity to weigh in on any issues that arise as the project moves forward.
The $61 million B Line would provide bus rapid transit (BRT) service in the Route 21 corridor along Lake Street in Minneapolis, and Marshall and Selby avenues in Saint Paul. The draft plan for the 12.6-mile line shows it traveling from Minneapolis’ Bde Maka Ska to Saint Paul’s Union Depot. It would connect at Snelling and Dayton avenues to the A Line, a BRT route that has been running along Snelling Avenue, Ford Parkway and 46th Street since 2016.
BRT requires passengers to pay at kiosks in advance for faster boarding. The stations offer real-time information on bus schedules, improved lighting and security, push-button heating and bicycle parking. The buses also make fewer stops.
Thirty-three stations are proposed for the B Line, including some coordinated with other transit routes (see map). Shelters would range from 12 feet to 36 feet long. The buses themselves would be 60 feet long.
With Metropolitan Council approval this fall, detailed design work for the route and its stations will get underway, according to Adam Smith, senior project manager for Metro Transit. The engineering work will continue through 2022, with construction in 2023. The B Line is expected to begin running in 2024.
Route 21 is the Twin Cities’ second-busiest bus route, carrying about 10,000 passengers per day before the COVID-19 pandemic. “But it’s also one of our slowest routes,” Smith said.
All project funding from regional, state and federal sources is in place. Streets will not need to be widened, but on-street parking in some areas would be affected.
HPC members raised concerns about narrow street widths on Selby in the Historic Hill District. However, they generally expressed support for the B Line plans and appreciation for efforts to minimize the obstruction of views of historic structures by relocating some of the stations, making them smaller and outfitting them with clear glass.
Commissioners also asked Metro Transit to find a way for bus riders to use QR codes or other technology to inform them when they are in a historic district or near a historic landmark.
Thirty historic properties are located along the B Line route, including 20 in Saint Paul. They include the Charles M. Thompson Hall at Marshall and Fairview avenues, properties at Western and Selby avenues, and ones in the Lowertown Historic District, as well as the Union Depot.
George Gause, Saint Paul historic preservation supervisor, said the project is not anticipated to have any adverse impacts on historic structures or districts.
Smith and Erin Que of the consulting firm 106 Group emphasized that the B Line will not result in demolition of any historic properties. Major issues considered are visual impacts where stations are located, as well as potential impacts during construction.
The Saint Paul Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee and district councils along the route have already provided input on the project.
More information is available by visiting metrotransit.org/b-line-project.
— Jane McClure
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