Nighttime work on Crosstown Reconstruction continues without city permits

At the start of the Crosstown reconstruction efforts, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) signed an environmental impact statement, which required the department to apply for nighttime noise permits.

According to John Griffith, area engineer for the project, there was a miscommunication between the contractor who applied for the permits and the city of Minneapolis — as a result MnDOT does not have permission to work past 10 p.m. But a lack of permits isn’t stopping them; construction continues to go on well into the night.

“We felt it was a typo,” said Griffith.

MnDOT’s contractor applied for a 10 p.m.–6 a.m. permit, he explained, but got a 6 a.m.–10 p.m. permit instead. They were working under the assumption that the approved permit was for nighttime hours.

The city informed MnDOT that they were breaking the conditions of their contract, but construction continued nonetheless. On July 12, the city pulled all noise permits for the project, including evening extensions that allow work from 7 to 10 p.m.

“They’ve proceeded as if none of this matters,” said City Council Member Scott Benson (11th Ward). “MnDOT is a lawless organization […] I think the police should arrest them.”

Steve Barrett, the site’s resident engineer, says MnDOT plans to keep applying for the permits, but in the meantime, won’t halt nighttime work. “In order to keep the project on schedule they needed to begin ahead of getting those permits,” he said. “The contractor, we feel, made the appropriate efforts and got the permits applied for. Just because they weren’t awarded doesn’t mean they didn’t do everything they could to get them.”

On July 20, the city passed an ordinance — spearheaded by Benson — that will require Crosstown workers to reapply for noise permits every two weeks — a policy that Richfield already requires. The reapplications will force MnDOT representatives to present 14-day plans detailing what and where construction will happen and why overnight work is critical. This will help the city approve nighttime work in chunks, rather than all at once.

MnDOT has made a significant effort to minimize disruption, said Barrett. They’ve stepped up notifications to residents, changed haul routes, reduced engine revving and truck box banging, and they don’t pile-drive at night. “The safety depends on them doing night work,” he says, because they often need to close lanes.

MnDOT’s contractor submitted a formal application for a nighttime noise permit on July 26 after the city and MnDOT’s regular Thursday meeting. Lori Olson, the city’s director of environment management who issues the permits, says that applications can be approved as quickly as the same day, but at press time, the application hadn’t been processed. “It’s been difficult because they’ve been working without it anyway,” she says. “It’s like well, just because I deny it doesn’t mean they’re going to not work.” She anticipates hearing many of the same noise complaints from council members and their constituents as the project moves north.

Currently, reconstruction efforts are on schedule, and workers expect to have Diamond Lake Bridge up this fall. “They can do that,” said Barrett, “but they do need to work a night shift to get there.”

Contact Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436.5088.