The Minnesota State Fair is making transit a center piece of this year's 12-day run in Falcon Heights.
The fair added a new transit center on the west side near the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus. It will eliminate the crossing on Como Avenue between the old bus lot and the south entrance to the fair on Underwood Street.
"With the volume of people growing every year, using transit to get to the fair, we needed something else," said Jerry Hammer, the fair's general manager. "We needed to do it bigger. We needed to have plenty of room for everybody and we needed to do it safely."
The entrance is part of a new development north of the Midway at the fair. New vendor facilities, restaurants and a new amphitheater replaced the old Heritage Square site. A new State Fair museum is also just inside the new transit gate in what's being called the West End Market area of the fair.
One of the newest features at the Fair this year is a new entrance for fairgoers. A giant, six-gate portal serves a new transit center between the fair and the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus.
The portal, Hammer said, will be a big improvement on the old bus lot, across Como Avenue and south of the fair grounds.
"It'll give people a whole new entrance to the fair," he said. "This whole new gate that we have here didn't exist before this year. But it'll get people here safely, it'll get them here much more quickly, and it'll help a lot with traffic, particularly on Como, but also in the neighborhood in general."
About 1.7 million people are expected to attend the Minnesota State Fair this year, and about a half of them are likely to use mass transit to get to the fair, including park and ride, express buses and regular Metro Transit service from areas around the Twin Cities.
The fair opens Thursday morning in Falcon Heights and runs through Sept. 1.