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Robert Street Transit to Benefit Commuters Foremost

Open houses for the project will likely be scheduled in mid-September.

Editor's Note: Dakota County Commissioner Tom Egan represents Mendota Heights, Lilydale, Mendota and a portion of Eagan. He was elected to office in 2004 and is now serving his second four-year term. Egan writes regularly to Patch readers about county government.

Recently, there has been a sharp increase in the amount of public interest in the Robert Street Transitway planning. Last year at this time, I reported that Dakota County to the Federal Transit Administration for and received $1.18 million in funding to cover the cost of what is known as an Alternative Analysis (AA) Study for the Robert Street Transitway.

The Transitway is proposed to travel from the Union Depot in St. Paul to Umore Park south of Rosemount. The Alternative Analysis requires that we study all the options for transit modes along this corridor.

Because the Union Depot is located in Ramsey County, both Ramsey and Dakota counties have contributed matching funds for the analysis and have entered into a joint powers agreement for this effort.

Staff and elected officials from all the communities in the greater Robert Street Corridor travelshed including Mendota Heights, Mendota, Lilydale and Eagan have been invited to participate in this process by serving on the Robert Street Transitway Steering Committee.

Admittedly, the process faced a number of delays, but on June 21, 2012, the Steering Committee unanimously selected the consulting firm of Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. to facilitate this effort.

A workshop to launch the alternative analysis was scheduled for Aug. 2 and was well attended by staff and elected officials from Ramsey and Dakota counties and many of the communities in the greater Robert Street Corridor travelshed. Members of the public were also welcome.

The scope of the exercise we undertook was limited to determining what the single most important purpose will be for this corridor and the most logical location. Questions about feeder arteries to the primary trunk, secondary functions, exact mode or modes, etc. will be discussed at a later time.

Robert Street Bridge or Lafayette Bridge

The consensus of the workshop participants was that the most important purpose for this transit corridor will be to provide improved transit and transportation options for workers to get to and from work on both ends of the corridor. Other roles such as transportation for students, shoppers, churchgoers, doctor office visitors, etc., will be discussed later.

What was also clear from the exercise was that the corridor across the Mississippi River to St. Paul must follow one of only two choices: Robert Street (Highway 3) across the Robert Street Bridge; or Highway 52 across the Lafayette Bridge. Neither corridor was recommended; but each was recognized as having certain more favorable characteristics. The choice may have a lot to do with the eventual mode of transit. There was also discussion about crossing over from one highway to the other.

A lot of information was gathered during this workshop and will be synthesized and assembled. Based on information developed, next steps will include revisions to the purpose and need for the corridor.  While exact details have not yet been worked out, open houses are being planned and the tentative dates are September 12th and 13th.  Our fellow Ramsey County participants suggest that one open house also be scheduled for St. Paul.

The public can count on hearing much more about this undertaking in the near future.

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