Andover, county planning for trail along Bunker

by Eric Hagen
Staff Writer

A new trail is coming to the north side of Bunker Lake Boulevard in Andover.

The city of Andover and Anoka County are planning to construct a trail on the north side of Bunker Lake Boulevard from 7th Avenue to Round Lake Boulevard. The project would be completed in 2013.

As part of the reconstruction of this road from 7th to 38th avenues, the city of Andover will be paying for the construction of an off-road pedestrian trail. Although the road project stops at 38th Avenue, the trail will continue east to Round Lake Boulevard thanks to a federal grant.

Once a trail is added as part of a road reconstruction project between Sunfish Lake Boulevard and Dysprosium Street in Ramsey, Jennifer Fink of the Anoka County Parks Department said trail users would be able to get from Bunker Hills Regional Park to the COR (Center of Ramsey) development and Mississippi West Regional Park in Ramsey. All these projects should be completed in 2013.

Fink said getting these segments completed will provide good connections and thus improve safety.

“This small section of road has a large volume of cars traveling at a high rate of speed each and every day,” Fink said regarding the segment from 7th Avenue to Round Lake Boulevard that Andover is working on with the county. “It creates a safety problem for pedestrians and bikers who must use the road shoulder to get from residential areas to commercial areas, and to the Rum River Library and Anoka High School.

Greg and Mary Tyson of Andover live close to the future trail and are happy to hear about it. They both have seen kids walking along the edge of the curving road. Greg has even seen kids walking on the raised median before crossing the road. When he sees this, he wonders if the parents know their kids are being stupid.

Although some kids are probably students at the nearby Anoka High School, the Tysons said they have seen elementary and middle school age kids walking along the road.

“It’s about time they contemplated the path,” Greg said.

They have children, one in elementary school, that they want to keep safe, he said.

Councilmember Julie Trude said she talked with someone who lives east of Grace Lutheran Church. They said when their son was going to Anoka High School, he was using Bunker Lake Boulevard and she thought it would be nice to have this trail because there is no shoulder there.

Andover is footing the whole bill for the segment between 7th and 38th avenues. For the stretch from 38th Avenue to Round Lake Boulevard, a federal transportation grant could cover 80 percent of the estimated project costs, while the city and county would later determine how to cover the remaining 20 percent, according to Fink.

City Engineer and Public Works Director David Berkowitz said he was notified that the 38th Avenue to Round Lake Boulevard trail segment scored second out of 52 applicants for the federal grant dollars. He credited Karen Blaska from Anoka County Parks for doing a thorough job on the application.

According to Berkowitz, the award of the grant becomes official in April, so there is a chance the federal government will not approve funding before then. The city is optimistic the funding will come, Berkowitz said.

New lights

To make the passage safer at night, the Andover City Council recently approved the purchase of 37 LED lights from Connexus Energy that will line the trail from 7th Avenue to Round Lake Boulevard on 30-foot fiberglass poles.

Although the lights are on the north side of the road next to the trail, the lights would be bright enough to cover the four-lane roadway, but not bright enough to really go beyond the road, according to a drawing produced by Connexus Energy.

A letter from a Connexus Energy representative to the city noted that the lighting will be installed with circuitry to allow for the lights to be dimmed.

The council was open to the concept of having the LED lights at a price of $3,761 per light. Berkowitz said the cost is relatively close for the 250-watt high pressure sodium lights the city has used before, but the monthly energy and maintenance costs are significantly less. The city will pay a monthly fee of $9.46 for each 130-watt LED light. The monthly fee for the 250-watt HPS light was $13.72 per month, according to Berkowitz.

“I think anytime we can go to something that costs less energy, it’s really worth it,” Trude said.

The monthly fee covers the electrical bill and maintenance expenses. If someone drives over a light pole, Connexus Energy replaces it at no cost to the city.

There was a little debate over whether the city should spend an additional $100 per light to have a grape paint colored light instead of the standard bronze.

The council chose the grape colored lights due to this color being used on Andover street lights along Hanson Boulevard and in the Andover Station and Andover Station North developments.

Therefore, the total cost of the 37 lights is $142,857.

Trude was the only one of the five voting members who opposed spending an extra $3,700 on having the 37 lights be purple even though she does support the lights themselves. The purple paint has faded on other lights and does not look attractive anymore so Trude preferred a neutral color, she said.

Berkowitz acknowledged that the city had problems with paint scrapping off the street lights in the area of Jay and Martin streets, but he said these lights were painted by a private company.

The paint on the lights the city purchased from Connexus Energy have worked out real well, Berkowitz said.

Mayor Mike Gamache said he drove down Hanson Boulevard and could tell the difference between Coon Rapids’ dark blue street lights and Andover’s grape lights when he was looking for it.

“I don’t know if $3,700 is a big deal to continue with keeping the lights all the same color as we start putting them in,” Gamache said.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]