The way Eagan city officials see it, there's just one thing wrong with the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority bus station on Nicols Road in Eagan: It doesn't have a direct access to nearby Cedar Avenue.
Instead, buses traveling to the station must exit on Cliff Road or Diffley Road and travel north on Nicols Road to reach the station.
It's a problem Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire and Eagan City Councilor Gary Hansen hope Dakota County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation will correct soon—especially since construction of the nearby Paragon outlet mall is set to begin this year.
City officials expect the 440,000-square-foot outlet mall and adjacent businesses will draw plenty of visitors and traffic to Eagan's Cedar Grove neighborhood. The station, Maguire and Hansen believe, will be a crucial transportation link that could help reduce congestion and improve access to the future outlet mall.
"With a retail outlet mall coming in, we anticipate that the connections between the Mall of America and our area are going to have a heavy reliance on transit, not just for customers, but for workers and employees as well," Maguire said.
Local agencies are already considering several improvement options at the Cedar Grove bus station as part of ongoing development of the soon-to-be-operational Cedar Avenue Corridor Bus Rapid Transit system. Those options include an off-ramp directly connecting Cedar Avenue to the station, according to Dakota County Transit Engineer Kristine Elwood.
The bus rapid transit route—the first of its kind in Minnesota—will be operational later this year.
Local agencies are working with an outside consultant to evaluate potential Cedar Grove bus station redevelopment options, Elwood said. The study findings will likely be complete in 12-18 months.
A proposed timeline for the BRT corridor development calls for the redevelopment of the Cedar Grove station to occur between 2020 and 2030, but if there's enough interest and funding, Elwood said, the station redevelopment could be fast-tracked.
"I think everybody agrees we should do something there sooner rather than later," Elwood said.
Enter Maguire and Hansen, who will both be serving on an advisory committee that will review the consultant's study findings.
Earlier this month, the Eagan City Council asked local legislators to help identify state funding sources for the station improvements.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency to get the access to the transit station figured out," Hansen said. “I think it’s really important to improve the access off of Hwy. 77 to the transit station so that it can be a viable part of the Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit system."