The Metropolitan Council has approved the final corridor plan for Metro Transit’s E Line, an arterial bus rapid transit route connecting Edina to Minneapolis.
The metro-wide planning body gave the green light to the number and location of stations situated along the 13.3-mile route at its June 22 meeting. The new rapid service, which will largely replace Metro Transit’s highly used Route 6 line, will run from the Southdale Transit Center along France Avenue toward downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, according to the final plan.
Several of the stations will be situated either partially or fully in Edina, including in the prominent shopping district of 50th & France. A stop is planned for the corner of 50th Street and France Avenue, which was approved despite scrutiny by area business leaders and city officials.
The line, which connects to the METRO Green Line Westgate Station in Minneapolis, will have rapid-transit service with its 34 total stops placed about .4 miles apart. Buses will run every 10 minutes.
BRT lines, running on “urban corridors in mixed traffic,” are intended to allow for faster trips and a better overall experience for customers, the plan said. It will be the fifth BRT line for the Twin Cities region, following the construction of a B Line through Minneapolis and St. Paul in 2023.
BRT stations typically have bus shelters with heaters and lighting, ticket machines and fare card validators, and signs with live bus information.
Planning for the E Line began in 2018 with a study analyzing the corridor and stop locations. A route was later adopted by the Met Council in 2020. Then, last fall, Metro Transit released a draft plan to gather public feedback. In the spring of 2022, a recommended plan was published with another comment period.
The council approved the final corridor plan last month, setting in stone the number and location of the stations. But other aspects of the stations are intended to still be finalized through “detailed engineering,” the plan said.
Among the core goals of the project is “providing the best transit network that we can,” Metro Transit Senior Planner Kyle O’Donnell Burrows, who works on bus rapid transit projects, told the Sun Current. “That final approval came after a fairly robust engagement process. … This is definitely not the end of the engagement or work on the E Line project itself.”
50th & France stop
One of the stations causing concern for Edina officials, business leaders and community members prior to Met Council approval was the stop at the intersection of 50th Street and France Avenue.
The 50th & France Business & Professional Association and the France Avenue Condo Association submitted letters to Metro Transit at odds with the recommended location, according to documents submitted to the Met Council ahead of the approval. And despite support for the final plan by the city of Edina – following approval by the Edina City Council in May – it also provided a caveat: The city requested the stop be moved from 50th Street to 51st Street.
But the final plan with a stop at 50th Street and France Avenue in either direction was approved as recommended by Metro Transit, which had undertaken additional analysis of the stop as a result of the expressed concerns, the plan shows.
Currently, the Route 6 bus stops along France Avenue are located in front of Athleta and Altar’d State. As approved, the new E Line route stops at the intersection will be in front of Altar’d State and Anthropologie, sitting just beyond the traffic signals in either direction.
Situating the stations just past the traffic signals will allow buses to get through an intersection before letting passengers on, improving the speed and reliability, Burrows told the Sun Current last fall, following the release of the draft plan.
Community concerns about traffic, such as buses stopping the flow of cars through an intersection, as well as obstructed views of storefronts and getting rid of parking were among those expressed in conversations to the Sun Current last fall.
Following the draft plan, Metro Transit conducted additional analysis on the 50th & France location for both the northbound and southbound locations
with alternatives examined at 51st Street. Considering factors such as traffic, storefront visibility, parking and tree removal, the locations of the stations were recommended to remain, the plan shows.
The line is a part of the region’s “broader transit network,” Burrows said, adding that the 50th & France location – a key intersection that has among the highest ridership – helps with rider connections and is convenient for places people want to visit in the district.
He added that Metro Transit plans to widen the sidewalk to allow for “comfortable pedestrian movement” behind the shelter and to use the smallest type of bus shelter at the location and use clear glass to not block access or views of storefronts. “We’re taking steps to address those concerns well,” he said.
Another stop, with stations located at 47th Street and France Avenue, was mentioned as a concern by neighbors, according to a letter submitted by Edina residents near the location. The stop, with northbound and southbound stations directly across from each other on the street, did not undergo changes as a result of the feedback, though additional analysis was undertaken, the plan shows.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024. Service is expected to open the following year, according to the project’s website.
“We’re looking forward to continuing development of the E Line and looking forward to that 2025 opening day,” Burrows said. “There’s been a lot of valuable feedback, a valuable process that has helped us make the E Line the best that it can be, so I’m looking forward to continuing that.”
– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent