MnDOT says project will take three years to complete
By Paul Wahl & Alicia Miller
SUN SAILOR NEWSPAPERS/SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
In the coming months, delays on I-494 north of Plymouth will more likely be attributed to construction than to congestion.
Representatives of Plymouth and Maple Grove gathered July 23 near the entrance to the Begin golf course to formally kick off the much-awaited project to add a third lane to the freeway among other improvements.
The project will commence at Highway 55 and finish at the Fish Lake Interchange in Maple Grove.
City officials said it was difficult to determine whether to have a groundbreaking or a ribbon-cutting, so they opted to bring in a large pile of dirt to be used for the ceremony.
Nearly everyone who spoke referred the more than 15 years the project has been in the works.
Mayor Kelli Slavik said she and council members were thrilled to celebrate the beginning of a project that will help ease congestion for motorists on the last two-lane stretch of the corridor. The project will make the commute safer, improve transportation and area commerce and improve the quality of life for motorists, she said, as vehicles sped by on nearly I-494.
Maple Grove Mayor Mark Steffenson said the city was very excited when the project got the green light. “The project is finally going to be completed,” he said. “There are 100,000 cars a day traveling that road. Because I-494 backs up, our north-south roads like Northwest Boulevard and E. Fish Lake Road, get used a lot by motorists trying to avoid the freeway.”
He said the project will eliminate the bottleneck on I-494. “This project is great for people that live and will make their lives a lot better. It was a long time coming.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation began work on the three-year project July 21. A spokesman for the department said motorists would begin noticing changes on the stretch of roadway immediately. Crews will remove guardrails and construct concrete barriers as they prepare to widen the Schmidt Lake Road, Canadian Pacific Rail and the County Road 47 bridges over I-494.
In August, crews will close the Schmidt Lake Road bridge for 21 days and detour traffic to County Road 47. The County Road 47 bridge will close after the Schmidt Lake Road bridge reopens to traffic.
The roadway carries 95,000 vehicles daily and is expected to increase to 132,800 trip by 2030.
The project is pegged at $86 million. Parts of the funding package came from money “found” in the savings from other state projects, according to Rep. Ron Erhardt of Edina, chairman of the House Transportation Policy Committee.
The funding will come from work on the St. Croix Crossing project ($30 million) and the Red Wing Bridge project ($20 million). Savings were achieved through adjusting bridge design and advancing parts of the project schedules.
Erhardt said seeing the project come to fruition represented a great step forward for the west metro.
Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth was also on hand for the kick-off. A statement was read from State Sen. Terri Bonoff, who was unable to attend.
In early 2013, Plymouth City Council met with the MnDOT to hear plans to fix the increasingly worrisome capacity issue on the stretch.
Instead of constructing a permanent third lane the department proposed a plan to widen the shoulder to 14 feet in both directions and utilize the space as a controlled lane during peak traffic times.
While the city was willing to live with the dynamic third lane, it continued to push for a permanent solution, Slavik said at the groundbreaking.
Those efforts eventually paid off.
Maintenance repairs on ramps spanning I-494
• Ramps to and from I-494 and I-694
• East Fish Lake Road
• Bass Lake Road
• Rockford Road
• Highway 55
• County Road 6
• Carlson Parkway
• Cheshire Lane
Replacing bridges spanning I-494
• County Road 47
• Schmidt Lake Road
• Canadian Pacific Railway
Install a third lane between Highway 55 and East Fish Lake Road
Construct storm water ponds and noise barriers
Contact Paul Wahl at firstname.lastname@example.org