Once completed, Orange Line expected to speed up south Twin Cities metro commute

A new transit route under construction in the Twin Cities is expected to dramatically speed up the commute from the south metro.

The new Bus Rapid Transit route called the Orange Line is just three years away leaving the station.

“BRT Lines, Bus Rapid Transit is really the most efficient form of transit that we’re promoting now, we think this is what people really want,” said Nora Slawik, the Metropolitan Council Chair.

The new Orange Line is 40 years in the making. The line connects Minneapolis to the north and runs 17 miles south to downtown Burnsville.

The new BRT line stops at 12 stations. A bus arrives every 10 minutes during rush hour and every 15 minutes during non-commute times. The Met Council chair says it’s all about faster service.

“There are not as many stops and so it has that speed, so it can be fewer stops, and reliable, and then folks are paying outside the bus,” said Slawik. “There are three doors to the rapid transit buses, so they can get on quickly. Speed is definitely what it’s about.”  

That speed is especially key in connecting commuters with jobs.

One of the new features of the Orange Line will be at Knox Avenue, near the Best Buy Headquarters. The Met Council will actually build a transitway tunnel underneath I-494. The whole idea is to not compete with traffic congestion, so it speeds up the bus route,

The new Knox Avenue transitway will have access to pedestrians and bikes, too.

The Orange Line will also stop at the new Lake Street transit station, which crews are building into the middle of I-35W. It’s all designed so buses never have to leave the freeway.

“Right now we have a very roundabout way of connecting through the corridor through the day throughout 35,” said Charles Carlson, the director of BRT projects. “The BRT will straighten that out quite a bit. I think we’ll be better than 20 percent faster than today’s service.”  

All that currently stands in the way is road construction.

“We’re going to do our best to keep the ride at a high quality through construction and it will fantastic and they will notice every bit of it when they are done,” said Carlson.

The total cost for the project is $150 million. All of the funding is secured.