Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) plans to resurface University Avenue between 27th Ave. NE in Minneapolis, and 40th Ave. NE in Columbia Heights next summer.
They’ve been meeting with some of the businesses that would be affected, in particular CP Rail and Cbase Depot and Transportation at 132 31st Ave. NE, to work out access during what would be 3.5 months’ closure. July 17, 2017, they and Metro Transit held a meeting at the Columbia Heights Public Library for the general public, well attended by concerned neighbors and public officials, to see what planners may have missed.
MNDOT Project Manager Jerome Adams conducted most of the meeting. He heard from residents who would be inconvenienced by Metro Transit re-routing and who suggested an apparently feasible alternative. Commissioner Liz Wielinski, representing the park board, offered information on the dimensions and needs of the side-dumper log trucks that use their tree processing site.
A man representing a business that had not yet been contacted gave his information. There was discussion about notifying businesses that receive shipments through out-of-town truckers who could get confused by the construction zone and get physically stuck out in the neighborhoods. Someone told a story about a frustrated resident who deliberately placed her car to block such a truck, yelling and cursing out the driver.
Another resident, a nurse on call essentially said her job and people’s lives depend on her being able to get to work quickly, no detour is really acceptable.
Seemed like everyone mentioned the trucks that stack up along University Avenue near the St. Anthony Parkway bridge…and it was confirmed that the parkway bridge replacement project would be done later this year, and provide some circulation relief.
Backing up the story here, the meeting started with a project overview and explanation why MNDOT wants to do a total road closure for one summer, May through August 2018. Eight inches of road surface would be ground off in an aggressive milling process. The $3 million project would put back five inches of the material, recycled, and a top layer of three inches of new asphalt. Cross streets would each be affected for about two weeks.
To try to keep one lane open each way would double the construction time, present the possibility of accidents involving driving off the eight-inch gap, and then be an inferior road surface where the lanes would join, resulting in shorter road life. The preferred procedure should produce a road good for about 30 years assuming regular maintenance.
Benefits listed in MNDOT literature stated that with smooth roads there would be reduced damage to freight being hauled in the area, and sidewalk ramps would be improved at 27th and 37th Avenues.
Closure maps show a 3.5-month closure between Lowry Avenue and 44th Avenue (a few blocks north and south of the project) because MNDOT has to use other state roads for detours. Their experience with detours is about one third of the people take the detours, one third find their own ways through the neighborhoods, and one third disappear, avoiding the area altogether.
Plans call for shorter absolute closures, allowing some local traffic, especially trucks, to keep operating while work is being done on other parts of the projects.
Adams got a workout during the meeting, fielding comments, confirming information about other road projects such as Columbia Heights working on a segment of 37th Avenue in 2018. Adams asked Dave Aeikens, Communications and Engagement staff for MNDOT’s Metro District, to take notes about others they needed to problem-solve with.
Not every road-disrupting project can be given so much notice and consideration (see Karen Kraco’s article from the Aug. 2 Northeaster) underscoring the worth of attending this type of meeting when it’s offered.