Newport transit station, first on Red Rock line, will open Dec. 1

Commuters can ride express buses going to downtown St. Paul in 24 minutes.
StarTribune
By Kevin Giles
November 18, 2014

Another piece of the budding Red Rock transit line will fall into place on Monday, when the route’s first transit station opens in Newport.

Riders will find a small glass building surrounded by parking lots that will accommodate 150 vehicles, but the bigger significance is what the building represents. It’s the first transit structure on what’s envisioned to someday become a major commuter route.

“We know we’ll be capturing a lot of new riders,” said Lyssa Leitner, a Washington County transportation planner.

Three express buses on Route 364 will leave for downtown St. Paul at intervals on weekday mornings, arriving 24 minutes later. In the afternoons, three buses will return to Newport. The station, at 250 Red Rock Crossing at the southwest corner of Interstate 494 and Hwy. 61, will join the Lower Afton and Cottage Grove park-and-ride lots as gathering places for commuters.

Fares cost $3 for adults one way, although reduced fares of 75 cents are available for youth, seniors and riders with disabilities.

The station was built on land once occupied by Knox Lumber. The $6.4 million transit investment, which included preparing the land for future development, was funded with a federal grant, state bonds, a Washington County Regional Rail Authority levy and money from transit sales taxes and tax-increment financing.

“This is not only a great transit project, but the start of a larger transformation for Newport and the Red Rock Corridor,” said Autumn Lehrke, who chairs the Red Rock Corridor Commission.

As ridership grows, the station’s flexible design can accommodate all types of transit service within the Red Rock Corridor, including expected Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), organizers said. Leitner said rail service isn’t considered a cost-effective mode of transportation but could be revisited someday if the route needs to move far larger numbers of commuters.

The current average weekly ridership on the express buses is estimated at 840 people, according to Red Rock documents. Once BRT is in place, that number could grow to 2,400 riders by 2030. Within 15 years, the southeast metro population will grow by about 100,000 residents, further congesting Hwy. 61, the Red Rock Corridor Commission said.

Implementing BRT service would provide additional travel options during the day and into the evening, the commission said.

The Metropolitan Council provides Route 364 under contract with First Transit. The council’s transportation services director, Arlene McCarthy, said Red Rock demonstrates the significance of partnerships in providing regional transit service.

“Working together with Washington County, the Red Rock Corridor Commission and other government funders, we think this transit station will greatly benefit residents as we continue the work of building out the regional transit system,” she said.

For route and schedule information, visit metrotransit.org or call 612-373-3333.