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|METRO Orange Line|
|Operator||Minnesota Valley Transit Authority
|Route type||Bus rapid transit|
|Locale||(Hennepin County/Dakota County)
|Daily ridership||43,000 Est (2030) |
Plans have been in place for decades to increase public transit on the I-35W corridor. Beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s light rail was studied but nothing was done. A commuter rail line that was proposed between Minneapolis and Northfield was halted in 2002 by the Minnesota Legislature banning public money from going to studies of the line. The I-35W corridor has a long history of transit, being the first freeway in the Twin Cities to have express bus service, starting in 1972.
In January 2005, the Minnesota Department of Transportation released their plans to improve transit service on the corridor. They chose that BRT using existing and proposed HOV lanes would be the best option. This came just a month after Metro Transit did a complete restructure of I-35W bus services, adding better service to the corridor, including new route 535, an all-day highly frequent bus route between Downtown Minneapolis and South Bloomington Transit Center. Metro Transit's future plans in the restructure report show possible expansion of Route 535's service from just weekdays to everyday service, and route extensions to the University of Minnesota, and south to Burnsville Transit Station. About 20–30 years ago a bus stop was built on the I-35W bridge over Lake Street. The Crosstown Commons section of the freeway was reconstructed from 2007 to 2010. The project extended HOV lanes north to 42nd Street and added a station located in the median of the freeway at 46th Street. Future MNDOT and Metro Transit plans show a new freeway station located at American Blvd overpass and relocating the Lake St. Station to the median of the freeway.
A 2007, $133.3 million, Federal-State Urban Partnership Agreement, designed to alleviate congestion in the Minneapolis area, allowed the construction of a center high-occupancy toll lane or price-dynamic shoulder lane (for the exclusive use of buses, high-occupancy vehicles, and drivers willing to pay the dynamically priced toll) running on I-35W from Lakeville to downtown Minneapolis—a lane that could be used for the planned BRT line.
Plans released in 2012 call for the METRO Orange Line to run from downtown Minneapolis to the "offline" (off-highway) Burnsville Transit Station, stopping at the "online" (on-highway) stations at Lake Street, 46th Street, and American Boulevard, and the "inline" (slightly off-highway) stations at 66th Street and 98th Street, with a potential extension to the Lakeville transit station in Lakeville that had been created with Urban Partnership Agreement funds.
In July 2011, the Metropolitan Council officially named this line as the METRO Orange Line. Corresponding Minneapolis-St. Paul transit lines are the existing METRO Blue Line LRT, the METRO Green Line LRT to St. Paul and the METRO Red Line BRT.