Transportation roundup

Lake Street reconstruction nears completion

When Hennepin County crews painted the white stripes on West Lake Street Oct. 30, it marked an end to this year’s major reconstruction along the busy corridor.

And business owners, no doubt, rejoiced.

“They are very happy,” Project Manager Don Shaffer said of owners who have had to endure the four-year project. “Some businesses are coming back, but some didn’t make it so well.”

As the bags are lifted from the parking meters and a few electrical loose ends are tied, only a final layer of 2-inch blacktop remains to be done — and that should be in place by mid-June 2009. Shaffer said that the road looks better, and all four lanes are now open, along with new light poles, signals, and curbs.

While he said everyone seems to be happy with the way it looks, the reconstruction perhaps came at a more personal cost greater than the $25 million price tag.

“Some businesses closed because they weren’t doing well before we got there,” Shaffer said. “But some [businesses failures] might have sped up once we got there.”

Roadwork caused large stretches of Lake Street to be closed, two lanes at a time, during the reconstruction, which often limited vehicle access to businesses.

Buses were rerouted recently along 31st Street from Nicollet to Bryant but were expected to return to their regular routes soon.

35W demolition causes switch

Demolition will cause a few switches along southbound Interstate 35W.

Due to the demolition of the old 35W southbound lanes, those wishing to get onto state Highway 62 west, must be in the left lanes, while those wishing to go to 62 east (the airport exit), must be in the right.

In addition, motorists headed toward the Crosstown on I-35W, south of 60th Street, will find themselves in the former northbound lanes, which have been switched during construction on the southbound lanes.

The Crosstown Commons is the sometimes-treacherous area where Highway 62 and I-35W meet at the Minneapolis-Richfield border. The second stage of the four-year project began in June 2008. Work during this stage includes the traffic switches and extensive work in the Commons area through July 2009.

Beginning in August 2009, the final stage of work will include the rebuilding of the northbound I-35W lanes, and completion of work in the Commons. The $300 million project should be done by winter 2010.

Bad vibes from Crosstown construction? Who you gonna call?

Recently, the Minnesota Department of Transportation began monitoring vibrations from heavy machinery working along the Crosstown, and will soon begin to preemptively inspect homes that could potentially be damaged as a result.

Following complaints from homeowners near the Crosstown that claim construction practices such as pile driving can be detrimental to their homes, MnDOT has begun “precondition surveys” on homes within 225 feet of heavy work. The surveys will consist of two inspectors who will document the home as it is by taking photos, video and field notes.

Those who reside beyond the 225-foot boundary are responsible for their own documentation — either with photos or video imprinted with a date.

The surveys are meant to determine the current condition of homes, which can then be compared with their condition after experiencing the bad vibrations.

A MnDOT update says vibrations also can come from planes, slamming doors, traffic and wind. Still, it’s asking contractor Ames/Lunda/Schafer to keep the vibrations to a minimum in populated areas.

Homeowners will be notified by mail up to three months before work that could cause heavy vibrations commences. Individuals are also responsible for calling and setting up an appointment with an inspector.

If damage has already occurred, homeowners can contact MnDOT via the Crosstown Hotline, 1-866-743-6590.

Counties Transit Improvement Board OKs $86 million for rail, buses

A whopping $86 million in grants for commuter rail, light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit projects was approved Oct. 29 by a multicounty transportation board.

“These grants meet immediate transit needs in the region,” said Peter McLaughlin, Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) chair.

The Central Corridor LRT — a light-rail that would connect downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul by 2014 — will receive much of the approved funding.

The Metropolitan Council and Washington County will also receive funds for bus services.

The grants were awarded for capital and operating costs for a variety of commuter rail, light rail and bus rapid transit projects, including:

• $30.8 million, for a one-time deficit relief payment to the Met Council;

• $26 million for Central Corridor light rail’s design, engineering, property acquisition and utility relocation; and

• $7.5 million for the Hiawatha Light Rail.

This is the first round of grants provided by the transit sales tax established by the 2008 state Transportation Bill and enacted by Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties, which make up CTIB.

Transportation roundup

Lyndale reconstruction update

The 20-month project to reconstruct Lyndale from Lake Street to Minnehaha Creek is still a year away from its proposed completion date of November 2009. In the meantime, periodic road closures will continue to cause headaches for confused motorists.

But rest assured, it’s a short-term pain for a long-term gain.

Once completed, the updates to Lyndale Avenue in Southwest mean the road won’t be in need of work for at least 20 years, according to Hennepin County projections.

“It’s moving along pretty good,” Hennepin County Project Supervisor John Weckman said. “Lyndale people love it because there’s not a lot of traffic.”

Instead, traffic has been diverted to Bryant, Grand and Harriet avenues, causing complaints from homeowners there. However, this year’s portion of $8 million Lyndale reconstruction should be done by November, he said.

Weckman assumes crews will again begin tearing up/replacing the roadway by April 15, 2009 — weather permitting — and be done with the project by this time next year.

Here’s a quick Lyndale Avenue reconstruction recap:

Beginning in June 2008, county crews began work to switch Lyndale from a four-lane to a two-lane street, with the exception of turn lanes at 50th and 44th. The outer lanes will be replaced with parking bump-outs.

• Lyndale, from 52nd to 50th streets, isn’t done yet but will remain open as work is done on gas mains through early November.

• Lyndale & 50th was scheduled to open in all directions, except from the north, by Oct. 22, Weckman said. The intersection was rebuilt with a new road, curbs, gutters and signals.

• Two layers of bituminous concrete, new curbs, gutters and gas mains have already been put down from 50th to 44th streets. However, a final layer of concrete next summer will likely mean more closures along this stretch.

• Curbs from 44th to 41st are being replaced, and crews were scheduled to be done with paving by Oct. 29.

• Workers will replace storm sewers and pave up to 38th Street — which marks the end-point for 2008 reconstruction — through late October/early November.  

“But by the end of November [2008, Lyndale] will be pretty well be back to normal, at least until next spring,” he said.

Nicollet Avenue resurfacing delayed until 2009

Originally, Nicollet Avenue from 61st to 58th streets was scheduled to receive a mill and overlay of concrete; however, due to time constraints, that work has been pushed back until 2009, according to Public Works Manager Larry Matsumoto.

In the meantime, before winter, asphalt and patchwork will be employed from 60th to 58th streets along the state road, Matsumoto said.

Southwest will also be the site of the majority of resurfacing projects in Minneapolis next year.

The mill-and-overlay resurfacing process, which begins next summer, will consist of removing a portion of the existing asphalt pavement surface and placing a new surface over the entire street. According to the city, the purpose of the resurfacing program is to extend the life of a road by approximately 10 years. Without this program, streets in the in the program would not see surface improvements for “many years.”

Slowing Upton

The topic of speeders on Upton Avenue South has been broached in multiple neighborhoods in recent weeks.

While speeding along tight residential street has long been a nuisance in some spots, the Oct. 19 death of a motorcyclist who collided with a car in the intersection of 46th & Upton has a few residents who live along the street concerned.

Authorities assume the crash was due to excessive speed. But that isn’t exactly news to neighbors, who say the lack of stop signs in many blocks from 60th to 44th streets means drivers feel free to reach high speeds.

Residents asked whether it was viable to place temporary stop signs or a “speed display trailer” at habitually speedy intersections along the street.

The answers: Public Works doesn’t believe the traffic volume merits more stop signs; temporary stop signs are illegal and cause more accidents; and residents can call 311 to request a speed trailer, a tool which is already heavily deployed throughout the city.

Minneapolis Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) said she has been in contact city traffic officials — namely those who, before the accident, were studying the very same intersection where the motorcyclist was killed — and is awaiting a study containing traffic figures.

“Because of these sorts of complaints, I’m certainly taking this very seriously,” Hodges said. “But I also know traffic management goes well when you’re basing it on data in addition to experience.”