METRO Purple Line BRT approved to enter New Starts project development

Dec. 14, 2021
The approval marks the transition of leadership for the 15-mile BRT project from Ramsey County to the Metropolitan Council.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has approved the METRO Purple Line to enter the Project Development phase of the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program under New Starts. Approval to enter the project development phase means leadership of the project now transitions to the Metropolitan Council from Ramsey County, Minn.

The project cleared environmental assessments this fall with the FTA issuing a Finding of No Significant Impact and Ramsey County issuing a Findings of Fact and Conclusions document to comply with the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act.

The 15-mile bus rapid transit line will serve St. Paul, Maplewood, Vadnais Heights, Gem Lake, White Bear Township and White Bear Lake. It will feature electric buses operating primarily in dedicated transit lanes. The line will serve 21 stations and is anticipated to open in 2026. By 2040, the average weekday ridership is expected to reach 7,000.

“The Metropolitan Council is proud to prioritize this East Metro investment,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle. "With our local government partners, including Ramsey County, we look forward to seeing the significant economic, social and environmental benefit the Purple Line will bring to our region."

Major employers along the Purple Line include Regions and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare hospitals in St. Paul, M Health Fairview St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood and the Maplewood Mall. Other destinations include Lowertown, the St. Paul central business district, Payne-Phalen, Hmong Village, Phalen Regional Park and downtown White Bear Lake.

Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt called the Purple Line BRT a “key transportation solution” needed for the East Metro area to stay competitive and connected.

“A lot of jobs cannot be performed at home in this corridor, which has three hospitals and a shopping mall," said Shannon Watson, vice president of public affairs for the St. Paul Area Chamber. "That is not likely to change, making the Purple Line a lifeline for people going to work, outpatient visits and running errands."

The Metropolitan Council anticipates seeking federal approval for the project to move to the engineering phase in 2023, where the FTA will review the project’s scope, schedule and budget. The current project cost is approximately $475 million with Ramsey County covering the local share and FTA providing a grant through the CIG program. The line’s operating costs will be shared by the Metropolitan Council and Ramsey County.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.