Maplewood approves plans for Gold Line station


graphics courtesy City of Maplewood An artist’s rendering of the the Gold Line Bus Rapid Line stop in front of 3M on Hudson Road, which was included in preliminary development plans approved by the Maplewood City Council Jan. 28.

A map of the Gold Line running along Interstate-94 on Hudson Road and the stop in front of 3M.

courtesy City of Maplewood A map of the $420 million, nine-mile Gold Line project. The double circles represent half- and quarter-mile radiuses around each station.

The Maplewood City Council approved preliminary development plans for a Gold Line bus rapid transit stop in front of the 3M campus on Hudson Road. 

The Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit project will have 11 stations total, connecting nine miles of bus line between Woodbury, Oakdale, Landfall, St. Paul’s east side, Union Depot in downtown St. Paul, and Maplewood. A federal grant has made it possible; the project will cost $420 million.

The line is still in the planning stages — it won’t be around until 2024. 

The station plan was approved, but not before council members expressed concerns the station planning was being tailored to the needs of 3M and not greater Maplewood. 

“What I would hate to see happen is this becomes the 3M station and not the Maplewood station,” said council member Bryan Smith during the Jan. 28 council meeting. “Right now, it feels a little bit more like the 3M station.”

Plans presented to the Maplewood council by project consultant Don Arambula, from Portland-based urban design firm Crandall Arambula, had nothing to do with transit lines or buses. It also had nothing to do with the station, said Arambula, but focused on an idea of “what happens around it.” 

The ambition is to provide safe and comfortable access to the station in the hopes of increasing the number of bus riders, and a policy guide for implementing the city’s 2040 comprehensive plan in relation to it.

Specifically, Arambula said planners put together a study, which included resident input, for development impact and opportunities for a half-mile radius around the station, with a special focus within a quarter mile. He added that 80 percent of transit users who walk to a station live within that quarter-mile radius. 

Arambula showed the council a map of the line running along Interstate-94 on Hudson Road, with an artist’s rendering of the 3M station with a trail for people to get there on bike or foot, and a wide, landscaped bridge across the freeway. The trail and bridge would connect to Battle Creek Regional Park. The station could be a trail head into Battle Creek, said Arambula. 

He said placing the “employment station” at 3M is “pretty obvious,” considering the company’s 12,000 employees. The trail and bridge would improve employee walking and biking access to nearby shopping and recreation. 

The bridge would cost the city a projected $7 million. Being so far down the road, the price tag is not set in stone. “Don’t write it down,” joked Arambula. 

 

Worries about 

prioritizing 3M

What gave the council more pause than the price was a plan seemingly appeasing 3M above all else. 

Arambula noted that Maplewood community members and staff took issue with the lack of direct walking or biking access to the station from neighborhoods north and south of it. 3M bans public walking or biking across its campus. 

“It’s their land,” said Smith, “a large portion of the ridership coming in and out of that station will be their folks.”

3M, said Smith, has a relatively conservative culture that doesn’t reward risks. He said he’s had conversations with wary 3M security and facilities people who see risk in elements of the project. “Their jobs are to be protective of the property.”

More bluntly, Smith said connecting Lions Park, for example, to the station and allowing the public to walk through its campus “gives [3M security] hives right now.”

Council member Kathleen Juenemann said the council needs to somehow “strike a note” that indicates to 3M that the station “is not all about them.”

Unless 3M is willing to partner with the city, said Smith, basics — like getting a sidewalk from the road to the station — will be more challenging. 

Arambula said his firm is considering how to connect the 3M station to the greater neighborhood. 

After noting its concerns, the council approved the plan. Smith said he believes the city and the right people at 3M will be able to open up conversation. 

“I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom about this,” he said.

Said Juenemann, “If you want doom and gloom, come to me.”

Arambula said the next steps would be a feasibility study to find potential funding partners — like 3M, Ramsey County and the Metropolitan Council — as well as determining exact costs, designs and what steps to take after that.

–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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