On a biennial cycle, the Metropolitan Council directs federal funding to infrastructure projects throughout the region by way of a competitive process in which local agencies compete for funding from various candidates. In 2022, 91 projects totaling $355 million were awarded, a much higher total than normal due to an extra $155 million in Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding. The applications are assigned a numerical score and the top-scoring candidates in each category are awarded funding.
A previous article in Streets.mn looked at the awards with a focus more on projects in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. But with four-fifths of the area’s residents, including myself, choosing to live in the suburbs, I thought a complementary article with a more suburban focus was in order.
These are the ones that caught my fancy as a long-time “road geek” and focus more on the southern and western parts of the metro suburbs where I live and spend most of my time.
Roadway Strategic Capacity Improvements
These are the marquee, high-profile projects and often are awarded up to $10 million each. In 2022 four of them were awarded, all from the suburbs, as follows:
Highway 65 Intersections at 105th and 109th Avenues, Blaine
Application #17515. Awarded: $10 Million. Total Project Cost: $10 Million.
The horrendous stoplight congestion along Highway 65 north of US 10 has been a subject of complaints for residents of the northern suburbs, and people heading to vacation property up north, for decades. In 1993 the Cambridge bypass was built, and in the mid-2010s an interchange and two nearby overpasses at County 14 were built, but the rest of the road remains four lanes with a bazillion signals. A recent study identified a preferred option of converting the road to a freeway between the US 10 and County 14 interchanges, and this recent award starts the process with interchanges at 105th and 109th streets. Besides welcome relief for people in cars, a new trail will be built along a new frontage road and there will be two new grade separations for bicyclists and pedestrians to use rather than crossing seven lanes of traffic.
Highway 13 & Nicollet Ave Intersection Project, Burnsville
Application #17578. Awarded: $10 Million. Total Project Cost: $30.1 Million.
Highway 13 is one of the most heavily used roads in the region, and there’s been a number of piecemeal projects over the years to improve it between US 169 and Burnsville’s Heart of the city. In 2018, $5.75 million was awarded towards building an interchange at Dakota Avenue, a project currently under construction. The eastbound overpass was built last year and the westbound will be built this year. For 2022 funding, the focus shifted to Nicollet Avenue. Although traffic volumes aren’t as high here as to the west of I-35W, there are issues because it’s one of the higher volume intersections, and Pedestrians walking between the MVTA transit station and the Orange Line station have to cross seven lanes of Highway 13 and eight lanes of Nicollet Avenue.
There were three options: expanding MN 13 to six lanes along, with double turn lanes in each direction and the construction of a pedestrian bridge; a huge overpass with a tunnel for MN 13 under it; and the one that became the preferred option, a quadrant interchange with a signal on 13 and a roundabout on Nicollet. Although there will be a signal on 13, quite a bit of traffic will be removed from the intersection to ease congestion. And pedestrians and bicyclists will be able to go from the Orange Line station and Heart of the City to the main transit station without crossing Nicollet, Highway 13 or any roundabout ramps.
The main thought I have is that we should be thinking about a ramp directly from Nicollet Avenue into the Express Lanes on 35W so the Orange Line and other transit can use the Express Lanes across the bridge. The 98th street overpass is going to need to be rebuilt in the next decade or two so the station could also be moved to the center of the freeway at that time.
I-35E and County Road J Reconstruction and Improvements, White Bear Township
Application #17495. Awarded: $10 Million. Total Project Cost: $14.5 Million.
The existing County J interchange is a half-diamond interchange to the south along I-35E in White Bear Township. The bridge is nearing the end of its useful life, and the area is rapidly growing, leading to congestion on the single-lane bridge. There are no bicyclist or pedestrian accommodations. In response to congestion getting so long and creating dangerous conditions by backing up onto the freeway, a temporary signal was erected on the northbound off-ramp while looking for a more comprehensive, permanent fix for the entire immediate area. Adding freeway ramps to and from the north, replacing the bridge and adding a multi-use trail are givens, but the exact location of some of the roundabouts or conventional intersections hasn’t been finalized yet. Here’s one possibility.
County Road 30 Expansion and Multimodal Project, Brooklyn Park
Application #17597. Awarded: $2.5 Million. Total Cost $3.1 Million.
This project reconstructs a rural section of County 30 in Brooklyn Park from a two-lane to a four-lane with turn lanes in urban sections, filling in a gap between a four-lane section reconstructed with the US 169 freeway interchange, and the four-lane section reconstructed with the Broadway Avenue / Blue Line project.
Roadway Projects from Other Categories
Marystown Road Corridor, Shakopee
Application #17710. Awarded: $3.7 million. Total Project Cost: $4.6 million.
Back when the Shakopee Bypass was built in the mid-90s, there was nothing but cornfields to the south, so none of the bridges were built with bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. Over time, three of the four had trail bridges built next to them, leaving Marystown Road as the last one.
Marystown road is a four-lane undivided “Death Road” north of Veirling Drive, four-lane divided with turn lanes over the freeway and then a two-lane rural section south of 17th. Traffic has grown to the point where the existing stop-sign controlled intersections are becoming problematic from a safety standpoint, and a new Hy-vee has been built with right-in, right-out access to Marystown, which results in a lot of traffic attempting to make U-turns on Marystown Road.
This project replaces stop-controlled intersections with roundabouts, which also allows the highway overpass to be reconfigured for two traffic lanes, allowing the outside lanes on both sides to be converted to trails. Presumably there will be a future project to road diet Marystown north of the project area to line up with the new section.
Highway 5 Reconstruction, Waconia
Submission #17682. Awarded: $7 million. Total Project Cost: $XX million.
This project reconstructs a section of Highway 5 in Waconia from Main Street to Olive Street. The current two-lane rural section will be converted to a two-lane urban section with medians and turn lanes, with the addition of a multi-use trail to the north side. There were five submissions for Highway 5 in the west suburbs. $2 million for a pedestrian bridge at Steiger Lake Road just east of Victoria, #17657 was awarded. A roundabout west of Victoria, #17636, got $2.4 million. Two other applications to add to a 2018 award to extend the Highway 5 four-lane section to just past the arboretum, and another to extend it from there to near Victoria, didn’t make the cut.
Carver County generally submits tons of applications compared to Scott and Dakota counties, even relative to their population, thus making out extremely well. How few projects Scott County got because of how few they asked for was a political issue during the 2020 process and the Met Council wound up having to tweak things to be able to give Scott County something.
Highway 101 and I-94 Interchange Upgrade
Application #17580. Awarded: $6.7 Million. Total Project Cost: $8.74 million.
Freeways that abruptly end at at-grade intersections with another freeway seem to be a Minnesota specialty. By far the worst one, US 169, née County 18 at I-494, was fixed with an impressive system interchange years ago but there are still many others. At Highway 101 and I-94, an equally impressive one was designed in the early 2000s but has languished for lack of funding. A few years ago a flyover was built for westbound to northbound traffic, and this project reconfigures the southbound movement from a loop ramp to a diverging diamond.
I’ll trust the engineers that it will improve traffic flow — it will reduce the number of phases at the signal on the north side of the interchange and the only traffic interfering with southbound to eastbound regional traffic will be local traffic from Rogers heading north on Highway 10. Although I’m disappointed the full system interchange couldn’t be built, this precludes building a flyover for southbound to eastbound traffic regional in future years, leaving the diverging diamond as an improvement for local traffic.
Bike and Pedestrian Projects
Bryant Lake / Eagle Lake Regional Trail Construction
Applications #17575 / 17537. Awarded: $3.1 / $5.5 Million. Total Project Cost: $8.6 / 3.8 Million.
Three Rivers has grandiose plans to build a north-south off-road trail that will stretch from Eden Prairie to Maple Grove and connect with numerous other trails. The southern section is known as the Bryant Lake Regional Trial and the Center and northern section, the Eagle Lake Regional Trail.
These projects build a long section of off-road trail along Baker Road on the southern end of the Bryant Lake trail, and fill in five different short gaps in the center section of the Eagle Lake trail.
Merriam Junction Regional Trail
Submission #17556. Awarded: $5.5 Million. Total Project Cost: $13.5 Million.
This builds a new trail on an abandoned railroad grade from Carver across the river to the Sever’s Corn maze and Renaissance Festival area. To the east, the long-term plans call for the trail to continue as the Louisville Regional Trail, reaching Prior Lake and an existing Scott West Regional Trail that runs from downtown Shakopee to Cleary Lake Park.
Cedar Ave Pedestrian Bridge at 140th Street and Skyway at the 147th Street Red Line Station, Apple Valley
Submission #17670 / 17604. Awarded: $2 / $4 Million. Total Project Cost: $2.8 / $5 million.
Right now crossing Cedar at 140th Street near the Red Line station requires crossing 10 lanes of traffic. Originally pedestrian grade separations at all the stations were conceived as part of the Red Line, but were deferred, with only a skyway at the Apple Valley Station being built. This pedestrian overpass near the 140th street station and a skyway as part of the 147th street station were submitted as a transit project on the last regional solicitation, but were not awarded as the Gold Line sucked up all available funding that was allowed to be awarded to BRT. They did rank highly and were selected this year, the bridge as a Pedestrian and the skyway as a Transit Modernization project.
Bloomington Valley View Schools Safe Routes to School
Application #17647. Awarded: $0.4 Million. Total Project Cost: $0.5 Million.
A minor project, but I include it since it’s the only one from my home city of Bloomington. Currently there’s only a sidewalk on the south side of 88th Street, resulting in students walking and bicycling from the neighborhoods to the north to Valley View Middle School crossing 88th street at a number of different intersections. This builds a sidewalk on the north side and consolidates the crosswalk to one directly across the school, likely including an RRFB.
Although the street looks empty in this summer Google Street view image, it gets rather busy at school opening and closing time with school buses, parents arriving in cars, and students walking across and along the street.
Disappointedly, there were a number of projects near my area in the south metro that weren’t awarded — rebuilding the trails on East Bush Lake Road and Normandale Blvd to modern standards, a new rail overpass to start filling in the gap between the Nichol’s Road and Pilot Knob Road trailheads on the Minnesota River Greenway. And Bloomington didn’t even ask for more money towards completing the Minnesota Valley State Trail, although they have unrelated funding to complete it as west to Nine Mile Creek, and the project to extend it from the existing eastern end to Old Cedar Ave will be let this spring.
As the “marquee” projects show, the Met Council doles out federal “roads and bridges” money for road expansion. Everything else, the rail corridor trails, school crossings etc., is just pudding on the cake, and a very thin layer at that.