Cars won’t cross tracks on Benjamin

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The process of working with government agencies and the railroads moves slowly, but when all the approvals are granted and the work is done, nobody’s going to be able to drive on Benjamin Street NE into the path of a train anymore.

Not that they ever did, but in this case, Benjamin Street—at least the part that intersects with the railroad tracks—won’t even be a street anymore. It’s going to be a cul-de-sac.

The section of Benjamin that will be rebuilt is between 36th and 37th avenues in Northeast’s Waite Park neighborhood.

“There’s only a stop sign there, not even [traffic] lights,” said city engineer Robb Urquhart. “I think the only reason we haven’t had something unfortunate occur is because of the light amount of traffic on that street. People do look, then they try to beat the train.”

The project has been in the works for a while, he added. There was a public hearing with residents who attended a Waite Park Community Council meeting last year. Urquhart said the vote was unanimous for the project, with 22 people voting. “They found out they didn’t have to pay anything for it,” he added. “It’s a project that is important to that neighborhood. They feel it will calm traffic.”

He said the project will likely take two months; he expects construction to start late in April or early in May. “We have to wait for the city council to authorize it and resolve to close the street. Then a notice has to be published in Finance and Commerce, the city’s [legal newspaper], and we have to ask the [city] clerk for a certified copy to send to the state.”

Lorrie Stromme, aide to First Ward Minneapolis City Council Member Paul Ostrow, said that the State of Minnesota will finalize a joint powers agreement with the railroad, City of Minneapolis and the state. Urquhart and Ostrow met with Benjamin Street residents and the Waite Park neighborhood group in 2005, she added.

“We’re not abandoning our property rights,” Urquhart said, “but we are closing the road to vehicular traffic. The work will be done by the [city’s public works’] field services in collaboration with the railroad, which in this case is the Soo Line/CP Rail.”

The public works department sent its request for city council action to Transportation and Public Works Committee chair Sandra Colvin Roy on Jan. 31. The resolution is titled “closing the Soo Line Railroad Company at-grade crossing with Benjamin Street Northeast.”

The project cost is estimated at $170,000, he added. Most of the cost will be covered by federal money. The City of Minneapolis will pay 10 percent.

For information, call Urquhart, 612-673-2628.

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