Green lights: Klobuchar stops in Rochester to tout planned federal transit funding

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Jun. 12—U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar feels good about the federal funding proposed for Rochester's planned Rochester Bus Rapid Transit system.

"All lights are green when it comes to this important, important rapid transit bus project," the Minnesota Democrat said during a visit to Rochester Friday.

The proposed system is a 2.6-mile transit project to connect downtown Rochester, Mayo Civic Center, the Mayo Clinic campuses and the city-county Government Center.

With Second Street Southwest carrying more than 21,800 vehicles and 13,000 transit riders daily, Klobuchar said the project would significantly reduce congestion, connect people to jobs and support economic development.

"We know we have to do better when it comes to getting people to their jobs," she said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced in May that $56.1 million for the Rochester project was included in recommended funding for new and expanded public transit services throughout the nation. .

Klobuchar said final approval likely won't come until next year, but having a medium-high rating in the recommendation means it's likely to be in the final federal budget.

"We feel really good about this," she said.

The federal funds would pay nearly half of the anticipated $114 million project cost, with the bulk of the remaining expenses covered by state Destination Medical Center funds.

Patrick Seeb, executive director of the DMC Economic Development Authority, said the project is a key part to meeting public needs in the city's core.

"The idea behind rapid transit is to make it comfortable, safe, convenient, reliable and fast for people who need to get around our downtown and through our community," he said, adding that the service is for the the 30,000 downtown workers, people who live nearby within walking distance and the patients and families who travel for care.

The rapid-transit project is being designed with buses that will provide service similar to light rail. The buses will travel in dedicated lanes on Second Street and have seven dedicated stations with frequent arrivals for passengers at each location.

The project will also include efforts to create a transit village at the west end, in space currently occupied by Mayo Clinic's west parking lot.

The clinic is expected to build its own dedicated staff parking structure at the site, but it is also working with the city, which would use a portion of the federal funding to build a public parking structure and transit stop.

Additionally, private developers will be sought to create housing and retail space at the site.

Rochester City Council President Brooke Carlson said the transit village, along with the dedicated bus operations serving downtown, will help meet city goals by providing quality service for residents and helping grow the local economy.

"This ties so directly to our economic vitality and economic development in our region," she said.