The heads of a $13-plus million rehab project for a one-mile stretch of 37th Avenue NE, from Central Avenue to Stinson Blvd., held a final “Open House” virtual meeting for its preliminary design. As reported in the Northeaster’s Feb. 24 edition, the project aims to correct several existing issues with the road (heaving concrete slabs, parking difficulties, rail crossing signals, etc.) while adding state-of-the-art traffic and pedestrian practices. And it’s not just the street itself that will be renewed; besides narrowing the traffic lanes to one in each direction, sidewalks, curbs and an asphalt trail will be included or enhanced. Traffic intersections will be transformed into 21st-century versions of their present counterparts; no more “You go first! – No, you go first!”
Columbia Heights Public Works Director/City Engineer Kevin Hansen and Forrest Hardy, transportation planner with Minneapolis Department of Public Works are the team leaders and have been working with the two cities, Minneapolis and Columbia Heights, and two counties, Hennepin and Anoka, and all the necessary protocols that encompasses. They also worked with SEH, the engineering firm for at least this phase of the design.
The May 18 meeting reviewed issues covered in the January 28 meeting, and added some specifics about the design. The street will be narrowed from 44 to 26 feet, which will eliminate all street parking and reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians. Concrete truck aprons will be added at certain intersections, such as Central, Johnson, and Hart and Stinson Blvds. Four-way stops and intersections with semaphores will have raised sections to calm vehicles while stopping or turning.
A design decision that brought some questions from a few of the 50 or so attendees was the placement of the pedestrian trail along the north side of 37th Ave, the Columbia Heights side. KC Atkins, senior engineer at SEH, sad that the choice was made because there would be more connections to the existing trail, less cross-street travel for pedestrians, and would allow a wider boulevard at the rail crossings. She said the plan would require a street shift somewhat to the north.
Both sides of the street will be impacted by the addition of new sidewalks, curbs, and green space. Retaining walls will be needed in lost areas, but more so on the north side. Columbia Heights homeowner Gabe Krieg remarked that his existing driveway is quite steep, and with the new design gobbling up more space, the incline would only increase. Nick Stroozas, a Minneapolis resident, said that the Waite Park Community Council voted for the south side trail alternative.
The Columbia Heights City Council must approve the layout, which will be submitted to MnDOT (37th Ave is a truck route), and a final design from SEH will be produced. Still pending are consults about stormwater management, street lighting, public and private utilities, water main replacement (Columbia Heights only), and a public improvement hearing for affected property owners.
Atkins said that funding is a mix of bonds, cash and property assessments, with the affected cities coming up with 50%. Construction bids will be opened by November 2022, with construction beginning in spring 2023.