Weekday, rush hour express bus service on Highway 65 from the Anoka County border with Isanti County to and from downtown Minneapolis will begin in early 2014 at the latest.
The county has received an $8.5 million federal CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation Air Quality) grant for a three-year demonstration project to run through 2016.
To move the project forward, the Anoka County Board, on the recommendation of its Public Works Committee, approved two actions Nov. 27.
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• Authorized the acquisition of vacant land for a park and ride lot near the Highway 65/Main Street interchange in Blaine.
• Approved a purchase of service agreement with HDR Engineering Inc. for final design work for the Blaine park and ride lot in the amount of $115,000.
Earlier, HDR Engineering was chosen to develop the “nuts and bolts” details of the bus service project following the issuance of a request for proposal (RFP) by the county.
According to Kate Garwood, Anoka County multi-modal transportation manager, the Blaine park and ride, located west of Highway 65 and south of Paul Parkway is one of three park and ride locations that are planned for the route – the others are in Ham Lake and East Bethel.
They will be the only stops on the express bus route, Garwood said.
The final contract has not yet been completed for the Blaine park and ride, but “we are within inches,” she said.
The parcel totals 6.68 acres and would provide 400 parking space with construction to take place in 2013.
“The acquisition makes sense and is a reasonable expenditure,” said Anoka County Commissioner Andy Westerberg, chairman of the board’s Public Works Committee.
Property in East Bethel has been identified for the park and ride location, but a contract is still being negotiated, but in Ham Lake two potential locations have fallen through and the county is searching for a new park and ride site, according to Garwood.
All the park and ride projects have to be completed next year in order for the bus service to start, Garwood said.
The bus route will begin on Highway 65 in East Bethel at the county’s border with Isanti County, travel south on 65 into Blaine before heading west on Highway 10 from its intersection with Highway 65, then taking TH 610, Highway 252 and I-94 into Minneapolis.
The buses will use the shoulders of the road, Garwood said.
“The county plans to purchase seven coach buses for the project and there will be nine trips each in the morning and evening rush hours,” she said.
The nine trips during both rush hours will all stop at the Blaine park and ride, but how many of those buses stop at Ham Lake and/or East Bethel will depend on demand, according to Garwood.
The goal is that once the demonstration project and the federal money end after three years, there will be other sources of revenue and/or other vendors to continue the bus service, Garwood said.
The federal grant requires a 20 percent county match and dollars have been included in the county’s budget to cover its share of the project costs, she said.
The Anoka County CMAQ grant application was supported by the city councils of Blaine, Ham Lake and East Bethel, the North TH 65 Corridor Coalition, Metro Transit and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
According to the grant application, the majority of traffic is on Highway 65 before it reaches the urbanized area of the county.
The route would pass through nine of the most congested intersections in the metro area, four of which are on Highway 65 and five on Highway 252, the grant application states.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]