by Mandy Moran Froemming
Anoka’s city staff and consultants are working on putting the finishing touches on plans for the reconstruction of East Main Street.
The design will go to the Anoka City Council for approval on Jan. 17, with construction scheduled to begin late April or early May.
Just before Christmas the final public open house was held on the project, inviting business owners and residents to weigh in on the design concepts and share concerns one last time before construction plans are finalized. About 40 people attended.
According to Dan Coyle, project manager with Kimley-Horn and Associates, the reconstruction aims to improve pedestrian access and safety in a very busy downtown core. Coyle’s firm has been hired to design the project.
“We need to find the balance between providing pedestrian access for the downtown central business district and keep traffic moving on a very busy road,” said Coyle. “The question was, how do you find a balance between cars and people?”
Up to 25,000 vehicles a day travel on East Main Street.
The end result has been a design that includes a reconstructed roadway with slightly narrowed lanes, widened sidewalks and bump outs at the intersections to improve pedestrian safety by shortening the crosswalks.
The city’s portion of the project will run through Fifth Avenue and coincide with an Anoka County project that will improve East Main all the way to Eighth Avenue.
In addition to the road and sidewalk reconstruction there are also going to be a number of other improvements included as bid alternates, ranging from upgrades to city parking lots to the addition of bridge lighting over the Rum River. The council can opt to include these in the project when it accepts construction bids.
The main part of the reconstruction is estimated to cost $4 million, with the add-ons totaling an additional $1 million.
Concerns from local businesses have been twofold, with there being plenty of questions about both the finished product and how they will maintain operations during the construction period.
Over the past year and a half, the city and consultants have been meeting with groups of local businesses to gather input on the project and talk about owners’ concerns on how they will cope in both the short- and the long-term.
“A year ago we held very focused property owner group meetings,” said Coyle. These were attended by as many as 70 business owners in the corridor.
The city is also working with the Anoka Business and Landowners Association to assist in additional advertising and marketing for those businesses during construction.
While there are certainly going to be inconveniences throughout the summer, the schedule is being managed to minimize the impacts to downtown businesses as much as possible.
“The city is working to do whatever it can to help the business owners out,” said Coyle.
More specifically, in areas where East Main is the primary access for a business that might not have a side or back entrance, the construction schedule is condensed so there would only be a three-week disruption while the sidewalk is torn up and replaced in front of those particular businesses, according to Coyle.
There has been a lot of emphasis put on the construction staging to mitigate the effect of the construction on downtown businesses, Coyle said.
The city plans to keep one lane of traffic in each direction open on East Main during construction.
Coyle said this project is different than other main street reconstructions in places like Osseo or Maple Grove, specifically because Anoka has two lanes of traffic in each direction. This allows more room for large delivery trucks to make right-hand turns around the pedestrian bump-outs.
Coyle said some business owners have expressed concern and trial runs have been done with delivery trucks to make sure there is adequate space for them to maneuver.
After reconstruction, through lanes on East Main will be a consistent 11-foot width through Anoka’s downtown, with turn lanes 12 feet wide. Currently the width of the lanes on East Main vary anywhere from 11 to 13 feet, said Coyle.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at email@example.com