Hennepin County officials have decided to postpone a planned construction project that would alter the Johnson Street/Stinson Boulevard/New Brighton Boulevard interchange on Interstate 35W until next year.
According to Hennepin County Project Manager Nicholas Peterson, county officials want more time to work with nearby residents on designing the noise-reduction walls that are planned for the project.
“We anticipate construction [in 2013],” Peterson said in an email. “Project staff will be performing additional field work to gather data to allow for voters to have as much information about the wall impacts as possible. Additional neighborhood-specific meetings are anticipated, as are additional wall-specific meetings for [nearby residents].”
Officials had planned to send the project out for bids last month, begin construction next month, and have most of the work done by the end of November.
The plan calls for permanently closing the southern portion of the Stinson and New Brighton Boulevard exit ramp. But part way through the next ramp to the north, the Johnson Street ramp, the lanes will be opened so motorists can reach the same destinations that the Stinson/New Brighton Boulevard exit ramp provided, as well as the Johnson Street ramp.
That will help provide space for an extra northbound lane that will go from the Fourth Street SE entrance near the University of Minnesota east bank to the Johnson Street exit in Northeast.
As part of the same project, the Fourth Street South/Washington Avenue entrance on the other side of the Mississippi River will get a new ramp.
Northeast and Southeast residents raised concerns that the noise-abatement walls planned for the project would have a negative impact on the very properties they are designed to help, by blocking out sun, obstructing views and attracting graffiti.
The project cost is estimated at $13.5 million. State and federal funds are set to cover $9.5 million, and the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County are planning to split the remaining $4 million. The City of Minneapolis plans to take its $2 million share from previously-allocated but unused Municipal State Aid funds, according to a memo from the city’s Transportation Planning and Engineering department.
“The demand to access northbound I-35W from Downtown Minneapolis exceeds the capacity of existing direct (Washington Avenue) and indirect (Hennepin or 3rd Ave Bridge to University/4th Street) routes,” the city memo said. “This is especially evident during afternoon peak periods when Washington Avenue is routinely congested several blocks back from the left turn access to 35W north.
“A recent study completed at the direction of the City of Minneapolis in partnership with MnDOT [the Minnesota Department of Transportation] and Hennepin County recommended a new eastbound double left turn lane from 4th Street South to a new northbound on-ramp. The study also identified the need for an added lane on 35W from University Avenue SE to the Stinson Boulevard exit.”
According to Hennepin County information, the project “provides an auxiliary traffic lane from University Avenue SE to the Stinson Boulevard NE exit. Auxiliary lanes are located at the outer edge of the roadway for use in speed change, lane weaving, maneuvering of entering and exiting traffic, truck climbing, and other purposes supplementary to through traffic. Auxiliary lanes generally extend from one entrance ramp to an exit ramp and allow drivers more decision time to make maneuvers onto or off of the freeway. In general terms, one can think of an auxiliary lane as a place that allows drivers to enter the freeway directly into a temporary lane and/or exit in a temporary lane with more decision time than a traditional ramp connection.
“The auxiliary lane proposed for this project requires some pavement widening and as a result, retaining walls. Shoulder areas will be reduced due to right of way constraints. The additional lane improves the ability to provide, and does not preclude, a future managed lane on northbound I-35W such as a HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane or MnPass lane.”