East Bethel accepts service road grant

by Eric Hagen
Staff Writer

The city of East Bethel learned a few weeks ago that it earned a $702,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to construct a service road on the west side of Highway 65 from 215th to 221st avenues in 2013.

The East Bethel City Council on a 3-1 vote at its Jan. 18 meeting officially accepted this grant. Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr. voted no. Councilmember Bill Boyer was absent from this meeting.

Although the city receives $702,000 from MnDOT, the city’s estimated contribution is $888,968, according to City Engineer Craig Jochum. This brings the total estimated project costs, including construction, engineering, right of way purchase and contingency to $1,590,968.

DeRoche wanted the city to focus its resources on the sewer and water development district in southern East Bethel. The Highway 65-221st Avenue traffic signal being installed this year would improve safety in that area, he said.

“It just doesn’t make as much sense to me now that we’re going to spend that type of money when we already pretty much solved the problem by putting the signal up at 221st and (Highway) 65,” DeRoche said.

City Administrator Jack Davis said the roads in the sewer and water district could be built by developers. The grant best leverages the city’s money, he said.

MnDOT thought highly of the project. According to a Jan. 3 letter from Gregory Kern of MnDOT, East Bethel’s proposed service road project ranked second out of seven projects selected for cooperative agreement grant funding in 2013. There were applications from 16 cities.

In addition, Davis said the service road is part of the city’s access road program in moving Highway 65 from an expressway to a freeway. MnDOT touched on service roads in a 2002 study of the Highway 65 corridor from 53rd to 245th avenues, and East Bethel’s comprehensive plan also makes these service roads a goal for the Highway 65 area.

Besides adding service roads, MnDOT has been pushing for access closures to reduce conflict points between vehicles.

East Bethel pledged to close the 219th Avenue median and the right-turn lane on southbound Highway 65 at 219th Avenue in exchange for this MnDOT grant.

The city not too long ago built a service road on the east side of Highway 65 from 205th to 209th avenues. The existing Davenport Street is the service road segment between 209th Avenue and Sims Road. From there, Aberdeen Street takes over until 215th Avenue.

The city received MnDOT approval for a grant to continue this east side service road from 215th to 221st avenues. Davis said the city was unable to reach an agreement with a property owner, so the city applied again to get the service road built on the west side of Highway 65.

DeRoche believed the urgency to get the frontage road was greater before the traffic signal was approved.

Davis said that the city applied for the service road grant before the council approved the joint powers agreement (JPA) with Anoka County.

The city sent in the application in October 2011, according to Jochum. The council approved the JPA for the signal project in December 2011.

Councilmember Steve Voss said the goal of the council was not to just do either the signal or the service road, but to do both.

“We’ve talked about both these projects for a long time,” Davis said.

The city’s share would come from Municipal State Aid (MSA) dollars that comes from annual MnDOT allocations. Cities receive MSA dollars depending on how many miles of MSA designated streets they have. These streets must meet MnDOT standard such as having thicker pavement to handle truck traffic.

Other projects

This service road will not be constructed until 2013. East Bethel is planning to work on two other routes in 2012 where MSA funds can be used.

After being pushed off in the past, Jackson Street will be reconstructed from 181st Avenue to Viking Boulevard. It is estimated this project will cost $1,313,105, according to Jochum.

Sandy Drive from 221st Avenue to Gopher Drive will get a seal coating and crack sealing this year for an estimated $120,000.

In 2013, the segments of Longfellow Drive, Lincoln Drive and Laurel Road that lead into the Coon Lake Beach neighborhood will be reconstructed from the Hawthorn Road right of way to Lexington Avenue. Hawthorn Road would not be extended to the south to connect with Lincoln Drive. The resurfacing of these three segments is estimated to cost $800,000.

Councilmember Heidi Moegerle questioned why the road resurfacing would not continue west to Forest Road, which actually connects with Lincoln Drive and includes a gas station, the Purple Reign restaurant and the fire station at this intersection.

According to Davis, the project stops at the Hawthorn Road alignment because the right of way narrows significantly west of there. It would be difficult to meet MSA road width requirements in that segment.

A segment west of Hawthorn Road would likely need curb and gutter to handle storm water improvements and this would drive up the cost, Davis said.

The city is just planning to resurface Longfellow Drive, Lincoln Drive and Laurel Road and the city has plenty of right of way east of Hawthorn Road, he said.

City staff had been considering a project that would have allowed traffic from Jackson Street to get to Highway 65 via an extension of 189th Avenue to 187th Lane, which intersects with Highway 65.

Davis said this project has been removed by staff because it would have required the installation of sewer and water pipes, which would have driven up the city’s costs. The maximum amount the city could have received from a MnDOT grant for this project would have been about half-a-million dollars and the grant application process would have been very competitive.

Davis said staff felt the city should focus on the service road project from 215th to 221st avenues that it had already received the $702,000 grant for.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]