Cedar Transitway opening likely to be delayed until 2013

Apple Valley walkway issues may further delay project operations

First planned to open in November, Dakota County’s Bus Rapid Transit system won’t be operational until spring 2013, but may be further delayed if Apple Valley and the county do not agree on design elements for the 140th and 147th Street stations.

Dakota County Commissioners Nancy Shouweiler, Paul Krause and Will Branning expressed frustration during a Regional Rail Authority meeting Tuesday about delays in the opening of the Cedar Avenue Transitway. Photo by Laura Adelmann

The news, presented by County Transportation Director Mark Krebsbach during the April 24 Regional Rail Authority meeting, drew frustration by county commissioners and led to a tension-filled discussion primarily between Dakota County Board Chair Nancy Schouweiler and RRA Chair Will Branning.

Schouweiler said while Branning was recovering from surgery, she filled in for him during a “contentious”  meeting between county and Apple Valley officials that included Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland.

Schouweiler said at the meeting Hamann-Roland agreed to develop the stations so walkways over Cedar Avenue could be added later.

But, the Apple Valley City Council later opposed the compromise, and instead passed a resolution for the walkways to be included as part of transit station construction in the city.

Branning, who represents Apple Valley and is that city’s former mayor and Council member, said if the county does not seek an amendment to the city’s resolution, the Apple Valley City Council will not pass a building permit for the transit station’s construction.

“So they’re going to hold us hostage?” Krause said.

“It’s not holding you hostage,” Branning said. “You either comply with their resolution or you ask for amendments.”

“That’s an ultimatum in my mind, which is the same thing as holding someone hostage,” Shouweiler said. “If that’s the case, we have no choice than to say ‘well we don’t get a building permit, we don’t open a line.’ ”

Krause and Schouweiler emphasized that the project decisions are not Dakota County’s or the city’s alone to make, because initial and ongoing costs will be shared among other entities, including the Counties Transit Improvement Board and the Metropolitan Council.

In an interview with Sun Thisweek, Hamann-Roland said the BRT runs through the heart of Apple Valley, said their primary concern is that the BRT system is built so people feel safe using it.

She said the city is committed to safety and would risk slowing the project to ensure that development of the walkway does not cause multiple disruption to businesses and residents.

“We want to do it right,” she said. “We want to efficiently build Bus Rapid Transit so people ride it, and we want to build it so transit-oriented development occurs,” Hamann-Roland said.

During the Regional Rail meeting, Commissioner Kathleen Gaylord urged Krebsbach to open partial service in November.

But, Commissioner Joe Harris urged patience and said it makes no sense to start operations until everything is ready.

Krebsbach said the county and city officials will continue to meet to try and resolve issues with the transitway.