Transportation roundup

Crosstown open house March 25

An open house addressing the latest in Crosstown construction will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. March 25 at Richfield Lutheran Church, 6 W. 60th St. in Minneapolis.

With the relative thaw, construction activities around the Crosstown Commons — where traffic traveling on Interstate 35W and state Highway 62 merges along the Minneapolis-Richfield border — will again soon be in full swing, according to a prepared Minnesota Department of Transportation statement. The new highway design is slated to be unveiled in December 2010.

The open house will preview upcoming roadwork and its effect on neighborhoods. If you can’t make it, you can also find information from the following sources:

• Crosstown Hotline: 1-866-743-6590. It’s a recorded message; however, it does give you some specific information.

• E-mail: crosstown@rranow.com

• Online: www.mndot.gov

• Office: 6242 Lyndale Ave. S., Richfield.

Money for mass transit

Nearly $200 million has been appropriated for reconstruction of the Interstate 35W bridge, according to a prepared statement from Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office. The Minnesota Department of Transportation now has $373 million for the project, according to one of first-term DFL senator’s spokesman.

Also included in the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill: $54 million has been earmarked for the Northstar Rail Project (Minneapolis to Big Lake); more than $10 million for Central Corridor Light Rail (Minneapolis to St. Paul) in Ramsey County; and nearly $3 million for a Greater Minnesota Transit bus facility. In Minneapolis, $264,000 has been appropriated for land-building acquisition, renovation and construction during the city’s
“redevelopment.”

Hearings on proposed sales tax hike for transit

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners held two public hearings March 18 to gather public testimony on the proposed 0.25-percent sales tax increase to fund new transit projects.

Hearings were held in downtown Minneapolis at the county’s Government Center and in Eden Prairie.

The board did not vote at the hearings. The state Legislature has authorized the seven metro counties to levy a sales tax for new bus routes and rail lines. The counties have until April 1 to decide to levy the tax, which could be collected beginning July 1.

More bridge and ramp work

Aside from the reconstruction of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi — scheduled to open this Christmas — other bridges in the area are also being rebuilt.

Upcoming work includes the removal of the 46th Street bridge over Interstate 35W in early April, weather permitting, according to a recorded message on the Crosstown hotline.

Further bridge-related closures include the northbound exit ramp from I-35W to 46th Street on or around March 17 and the southbound I-35W exit ramp this spring.

The 50th Street bridge is scheduled to reopen in fall 2008. The Diamond Lake bridge is open, but all freeway ramps to the bridge are closed, as are the sidewalks. Pedestrian access has been rerouted to 60th Street and Minnehaha Parkway.

The 60th Street entrance ramp to north I-35W will close June 2010 and reopen November 2010, while the exit ramp from the south will close this June and reopen October 2009. 60th Street will close for two weeks in late June for storm sewer work.

Transportation roundup

54th Street from Upton to Penn Avenues to get bike lanes

Reconstruction of 54th Street from Upton to Penn Avenues to add bike lanes in each direction will begin this spring, possibly mid-April or May, said Public Works Project Engineer Jeff
Handeland.

The road currently has single-lane, two-way traffic and 10 feet of parking on both sides of the street. Public Works will be removing parking on the north side of the road to make way for 5-foot bike lanes on both sides of the street. The road was designated to get bike lanes in the city’s Bikeways Master Plan. Both sides of the street will have sidewalks and green space for boulevard trees. Curbs, gutters and storm drains will also be reconstructed. The project, which City Council approved on Feb. 29, will cost $2.26 million, and residents who live in the street can expect to be assessed at 51 cents per square foot of property.

Washington Avenue may become pedestrian mall for Central Corridor LRT

On Feb. 27, the Metropolitan Council approved a plan to route the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT) line down Washington Avenue through the University of Minnesota (U of M) campus. The university opposes the decision and is preparing a study that would send trains through Dinkytown instead. The council has agreed to review the study once it’s complete this spring, but switching the route to go through Dinkytown could delay the project a year, which would add money and push back getting federal approval.

Putting LRT on Washington Avenue would turn the street into a pedestrian mall similar to Nicollet Mall, as vehicular traffic other than emergency vehicles would not be allowed. The council is in discussions with the university over whether they would allow buses to continue to use the corridor once the line is complete in 2014. The U of M would rather not have buses in addition to LRT due to potential vibrations near the research buildings. Project officials are worried that the LRT wouldn’t be able to accommodate all of the regular bus riders, as it will initially only have two cars per train.

Using the route down Washington Avenue means engineers will have to perform extensive work on the Washington Avenue Bridge, which is currently not LRT-ready. $30 million has been included for bridgework, with the project totaling $909 million.

The 11-mile Central Corridor line will connect downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul using University and Washington Avenues. With 16 new stations and five stops shared with the Hiawatha LRT, it would serve nearly 40,000 daily riders by 2020.

Contact Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.