The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is planning to spend $12.42 million to improve the Highway 65 corridor in East Bethel and Ham Lake this year.
Highway 65 resurfacing
MnDOT is estimating it will cost $10 million to work on Highway 65 north of 217th Avenue to the Anoka County-Isanti County border at 245th Avenue. The lanes will be resurfaced and turn lanes at major intersections will be extended from the current 300 feet to 500 feet, according to MnDOT’s North Area Engineer Mark Lindeberg.
East Bethel City Councilmember Robert DeRoche, Jr., the council liaison to the city’s roads commission, said this work is long overdue.
“(Highway) 65 is the main artery through East Bethel,” DeRoche said. “If you don’t keep fixing things, eventually you’re going to have to replace it.”
This project will impact the traffic flow of Highway 65 during the anticipated June through September construction period. Lindeberg said the contractor will need to close lanes at some points so drivers need to be cautious when going through the area.
Highway 65-169th Avenue
Ham Lake will see about $2.42 million come into the community from MnDOT for three projects, some of which include city financial participation.
Heading from the north, the first project motorists would see is major intersection upgrades at the Highway 65 and 169th Avenue intersection. MnDOT’s design would not allow 169th Avenue traffic to turn left onto Highway 65. Instead, these vehicles would turn right and then make a U-turn further down the road to head in the direction they intended to go.
MnDOT’s goal is to cut down on high-speed T-bone crashes. Traffic counts did not justify a traffic signal, MnDOT previously stated.
Lindeberg said MnDOT is estimating the project will cost about $600,000. A federal grant is covering 90 percent of the construction costs and MnDOT will cover the remainder for the June through August project.
Although the intersection upgrades will include concrete medians, Lindeberg said the current median is wide enough to accommodate the improvements, so MnDOT will not have to purchase any permanent easements from property owners.
Highway 65 service road
The next project to the south is just off the east side of Highway 65. MnDOT is giving the city of Ham Lake $1.3 million of state gas tax revenue to construct a service road from 153rd to 159th avenues. Ham Lake is estimating this state grant will cover all construction costs, but the city has been responsible for the extensive preparations of this project.
This project is slated to happen in June through December, according to MnDOT estimates.
Highway 65-Bunker Lake Boulevard
The most southern Highway 65 project in Ham Lake will happen at the intersection of Bunker Lake Boulevard (County Road 116). With state financial participation, Anoka County will construct a second left-turn lane for northbound Highway 65 traffic planning to go west on Bunker Lake Boulevard. The southbound Highway 65 left-turn lane will be extended for traffic going east on Bunker Lake Boulevard.
The second left-turn lane on northbound Highway 65 helps for two reasons, according to Lindeberg. A lot of traffic coming home during rush hour wants to head west on Bunker Lake Boulevard because there is more development that way compared to east of Highway 65.
The extra turn lane gives these drivers a better opportunity to safely get into the turn lanes without having to decelerate as much or stop on one of the western through lane of northbound Highway 65.
Ham Lake Councilmember Gary Kirkeide has witnessed the traffic flow problems at the intersection and is looking forward to this getting fixed, he said.
The left green arrow can change to red more quickly, which helps the southbound traffic.
Lindeberg said MnDOT will contribute $590,000 to the Highway 65 and Bunker Lake Boulevard intersection improvements slated for July through November, which will all happen within MnDOT’s right of way. Anoka County and city will finance the remaining costs, which are still being formulated.
Kirkeide, one of two council representatives on the city’s roads commission, said these projects are all about improving safety. The service road project will help because two accesses onto Highway 65 are being eliminated, including the access the little used Island Drive just north of 153rd Avenue has to the busy highway.
Kirkeide has a feeling safety will improve at Highway 65-169th Avenue when the new intersection goes in, but the design of requiring all traffic from a side street to turn right and then make a U-turn if they want to go in the opposite direction is not common in Minnesota.
“It will be an interesting experiment,” Kirkeide said.
New traffic signal
About the time that MnDOT is done resurfacing Highway 65 in East Bethel, a new traffic signal will be going up at the Highway 65 and 221st Avenue intersection.
East Bethel City Administrator Jack Davis said the Anoka County Highway Department will begin prepping the area in mid-August. MnDOT will be done with the resurfacing around Labor Day. The signal should be operational by the end of October.
East Bethel has been pushing for this project to take place for some time and the county was able to secure federal funding that will cover about 90 percent of the $1 million construction project. The city and county will fund the remaining costs.
Davis said MnDOT informed the city that it would not be contributing any money to put in this signal.
The Highway 65-221st Avenue intersection was the sixth most dangerous intersection in the state from January 2008 through December 2010, according to Jack Corkle, a senior transportation planner for the Anoka County Highway Department.
There will be a temporary traffic signal at this intersection and at the 237th Avenue intersection during MnDOT’s road resurfacing work, according to Lindeberg.
The temporary signal is needed to allow side road traffic to safely get on Highway 65 when traffic lanes are closed and construction work is going on, Lindeberg said.
According to Davis, it will get people accustomed to the new traffic signal that will be going up.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]