Transportation roundup

Bridges to force closures through the end of September

Kenilworth Bridge on West Lake of the Isles Parkway, between Kenilworth Place and Dean Parkway, will close for two weeks beginning Sept. 15 for deck repair work, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

Pedestrian and bike traffic will, however, be able to access the bridge during this time.

The Minneapolis Public Works and Park Board crews are doing the deck repair work. Public Works will handle the placement of steel framing, while the Park Board will fill the concrete. The work will extend the life of the bridge by an estimated 50 years, according to Minneapolis Bridge Specialist Jeff Johnson.

The bridge, which regularly receives heavy traffic, is scheduled to reopen to all vehicles on Tuesday, Sept. 30.

Nicollet Avenue

Also, Nicollet Avenue at Interstate 35W/state Highway 62 underpass will close nightly from Sunday through Thursday, 10 p.m.–5 a.m., through the rest of September to allow crews to place concrete bridge segments around the Nicollet Avenue bridge.

Detours: Diamond Lake Road, Portland Avenue and 66th Street.

Rybak says ‘free’ bikes will stick around

After taking a tour of both Denver and Minneapolis on “Freewheelin” bikes, Mayor R.T. Rybak said 70 of the free bicycles will remain following the Republican National Convention.

Humana will provide the bikes and kiosks at an as-of-yet undetermined location Downtown. But unlike the manned Freewheelin bike stations available Downtown during the RNC, stations that are being left behind will be automated kiosk-controlled bike stations. Each is solar-powered with battery back up and is activated by a personalized Freewheelin member card.

The process to “rent” a Freewheelin’ bike goes like this: you locate a kiosk, provide a photo ID and swipe your credit card. You can then borrow the bike and helmet and return it before 7 p.m.

Simple enough, right?

Jim Turner, spokesman for Humana, said the locations of the kiosks will be up to Minneapolis officials, however he said reregistering online at Freewheelinwaytogo.com will expedite the process.

At a ride outside the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Turner said Rybak was the one who approached him.

“He was clearly very enthusiastic about bicycles and bike-sharing,” Turner said of America’s so-called “fittest” mayor.

“It was the hit of the [DNC],” Rybak said of the bicycles. “I think they made the streets much more fun for the week.”

Back at home during the RNC, Rybak said approximately 2,000 people used the bike share, logging 13,000 miles and burning 100,000 calories in the Twin Cities.

I-35W North to get an extra toll lane

Work to widen Interstate 35W north to five lanes is already under way, and will continue through 2010, according to MnDOT.

A “priced dynamic shoulder” or toll lane will be added along the left hand side of I-35W from 42nd Street to Downtown, in an attempt to ease congestion during peak traffic from Lake Street to the Crosstown. The price will vary depending on how busy it is.

Another toll lane will be added on both northbound and southbound I-35W between 66th Street and 42nd Street. And High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes south of 66th Street on I-35W will be turned into toll lanes.

The $18 million project is one of a number funded through a $133.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Urban Partnership Agreement program.

Plans also call for the addition of 20-foot-tall wood sound barriers.

The schedule provided by MnDOT says the northbound lanes will likely be completed in fall 2009, while southbound lanes will have to wait until 2010.

Bikeway closures

Reconstruction is forcing the closure of some bike lanes along Marquette and 2nd Avenues, to complete the Marq II project Downtown and Washington Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River.

When work finishes in 2009, the reopening of Marquette and 2nd Avenues will feature expanded bus lanes, but will not feature bike lanes, however the issue is being eyed at City Hall.

Nicollet Mall, however, will no longer feature buses and will be reopened to cycling traffic 24 hours a day.

While construction occurs, the city suggests taking alternative routes on Hennepin Avenue’s bike lanes and 3rd Avenue, which has no bike lanes. At times general traffic lanes will remain open, and bicyclists may use those lanes, according to a city news release.

The release suggested riding with the flow of traffic, staying visible by not riding in the gutter and ride where the right wheel of a car would be. For more information, go to www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/public-works/marq2/.

The second closure is the Washington Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi. Hennepin County has eliminated the bike lanes due to concerns over the strength of the upper deck of the bridge. Because of high pedestrian traffic, bicyclists must walk their bikes through the enclosure.

The bike lanes on the bridge are expected to reopen in the spring.

Transportation roundup

New I-35W bridge nears completion

The new Interstate 35W bridge should be open to traffic sometime between mid-September and mid-October, according to the latest Minnesota Department of Transportation update.

MnDOT Spokesman Kevin Gutenecht said Aug. 26 that he did not have a specific date the bridge would open but expected to announce it “soon.”

“[We] just want to make sure we don’t have to change the date once we announce it,” Gutenecht said.

The roadways around the bridge such, such as West River Road and 2nd Street SE, will open when the bridge opens.

No matter the date, the project is well ahead of the “contractually obligated” completion date of Dec. 24, according to MnDOT. Flatiron-Manson crews first began site preparation in October 2007, and have been working 24/7 since then. If the contractors have the bridge available for traffic by Sept. 14, they would reportedly earn a $27 million bonus.

In keeping with a long tradition of newly completed bridges, once the new 35W bridge is done, it will likely first be open to pedestrians before it opens to motorized traffic.

Flatiron-Manson Joint Venture is the contractor for the 234-million-pound bridge that initially cost $234 million — or $1 per pound — to construct.

The new I-35W bridge is expected to last 100 years, according to MnDOT estimates. National transportation officials recently recommended using the new bridge as an example of how to design, construct and pay for major transportation projects in the future.

Aside from 10 lanes of traffic over two separate spans, the bridge is also designed to support light-rail transit (LRT) and features river-level observation decks.

Until the bridge is complete, MnDOT says the best place to view Flatiron-Manson’s work is from the 10th Avenue Bridge.

Rybak tours Denver on free bikes  

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak began his Democratic National Convention experience by biking into downtown Denver on one of 1,000 free bikes provided by the Freewheelin program.

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, and increase exercise, the free bikes were also offered during the Republican National Convention and could be found throughout Downtown Minneapolis.

The bikes were offered as a result of a partnership between Humana healthcare and Bikes Belong coalition. There is no word yet on whether the free bikes — popular on college campuses — will be available after the RNC.

Crosstown closures

All lanes of state Highway 62 between Penn Avenue and the western junction of Interstate 35W are tentatively scheduled to close from 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 12 through 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15. This closure is needed for storm sewer work, according to a MnDOT news release. Motorists should follow the posted detour routes.

Watch for nighttime lane closures on the Crosstown between 9:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. each night as work continues. The Crosstown is commonly referred to as the area where west- and-east-bound lanes of Highway 62 conjoin at the Minneapolis-Richfield borders. For up-to-date information on highway construction, traffic, detours and delays call 511 or go to www.511mn.org

Status of Crosstown ramps (closures, openings):

• The 46th Street exit ramp from southbound I-35W closes in September and reopens in October 2009. The 46th Street exit ramp to southbound I-35W will reopen in October 2010.

• The 60th Street exit ramp from southbound I-35W is closed and will reopen in September 2009.

• The Portland Avenue exit ramp from eastbound Highway 62 is closed, and will reopen sometime this fall.

• The Lyndale Avenue exit ramp from westbound Highway 62 is closed, and will reopen in September 2009. The Lyndale Avenue entrance ramp to eastbound Hwy 62/northbound I-35W is also closed and will reopen in September 2009. The Lyndale exit ramp from eastbound Hwy. 62 will also reopen in September 2009.

• The Penn Avenue entrance ramp to eastbound Highway 62 is closed and will reopen in July 2009.

• The 66th Street entrance ramp to northbound I-35W is closed and will reopen in June 2010.

Counties’ top transportation priority: Central Corridor LRT

The Counties Transit Improvement Board has picked the Central Corridor light-rail transit line, which will connect the Twin Cities, as it’s number one funding priority in 2009. Some of the $70 million in taxes collected from the new quarter-cent metro-wide sales tax will be spent, in large part, to fund the train line.

CTIB Chair and Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said in a release that investments in light rail, commuter rail and intercity passenger rail, as well as in bus rapid transit, will help commuters, residents and businesses move more quickly and efficiently. The CTIB also committed 50 percent of transit operating funds for the Hiawatha Light Rail Line, and the new and expanded Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit and I-35W South Bus Rapid Transit lines, among others.

The Board (comprised of Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties) will also fund 30 percent of Central Corridor capital project costs, not to exceed $300 million, as well as 50 percent of operating costs for the light rail line between Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul.

The $892 million Central Corridor Project has also received a combined 20 percent capital funding commitment from the regional railroad authorities in Hennepin and Ramsey counties and the state.