Public’s views on station location sought

Planners eye southerly extension of Orange Line transit

A bus rapid transit line from Minneapolis to Burnsville isn’t expected to open until late 2020, but planners are already preparing for the line’s possible southerly extension into Lakeville.

Dakota County is leading the effort, which includes upcoming meetings and open houses in Burnsville and Lakeville to gather public input on the proposed METRO Orange Line extension.

In particular, planners want to hear people’s views on a station location near Burnsville Center, the regional shopping mall south of County Road 42 and west of Interstate 35W/35E.

Dakota County and its partners — Metro Transit, local cities and the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority — agree that a Lakeville station belongs at the Kenrick Avenue Park and Ride, according to Joe Morneau, the county’s project manager for the extension study.

There’s also general agreement that a station should be located somewhere near Burnsville Center. But planners want to hear the public’s views on different locations. Potential sites are within about a quarter mile of the mall, on either side of County Road 42, Morneau said.

“But there’s a lot of question marks as far as what’s the best location for access and the best location for operations,” Morneau said. “We want to get a lot of input from riders, from the public, on that particular issue.”

Also, planners haven’t ruled out recommending a third station for the five-mile southerly extension of the line, which will run along I-35W and I-35, according to Morneau.

“We’re not walking away from any possibility like that quite yet,” he said.

The planning team will eventually bring its recommendations to the Dakota County Regional Railroad Authority for review, Morneau said. Recommendations will then go to Metro Transit.

Metro Transit is continuing to pursue a $74.1 million federal grant to fund the Orange Line’s 17-mile first phase, according to agency spokesman Howie Padilla. Local funding for the $150.7 million first phase is already in place, he said.

The line will include the Nicollet Avenue Station and Burnsville Parkway Station in Burnsville.

A timeline and cost estimates for the southerly extension will become clearer when the Dakota County study is completed, Padilla said.

Public input began Aug. 26 with engagement of State Fair express bus riders at the Burnsville Transit Station. More locations and dates follow.

Pop-up meetings: Burnsville Fire Muster, Saturday, Sept. 9; Lakeville Goodwill, a weekday in September; Burnsville Center shopper and employee engagement, Saturday, Sept. 16; and the Burnsville Center MVTA transfer location, a weekday in September.

Open houses: Kenrick Avenue Park and Ride, Oct. 12, and Burnhaven Library in Burnsville, Oct. 17. A second round of open houses at each location is planned for March.

Stakeholder meetings: West Apartments, Burnsville, October; Chancellor Manor Apartments, Burnsville, October; County Road 42 corridor business and retail managers, October; Connelly’s Mobile Home Park, Lakeville, November; and DARTS, November.

An extension project website will be up soon, according to a city of Burnsville report. Orange Line information is at metrotransit.org.