Coon Rapids, Anoka County approve East River Road study

An East River Road corridor study from TH 610 in Coon Rapids to I-694 in Fridley has been approved by the Coon Rapids City Council.

The study, which began in the fall of 2010, was similar to the Coon Rapids Boulevard access management study in 2009-2010.

The Anoka County Board – East River Road is a county state aid highway – retained consulting engineer Kimley Horn & Associates to perform the study for an amount not to exceed $400,000, with the cities of Coon Rapids and Fridley both sharing in the cost.

The study has also been approved by the Anoka County Board and the Fridley City Council.

According to Marc Nevinski, Coon Rapids community development director, the study looked at corridor capacity, safety and access and appearance.

A series of public meetings took place for affected property owners before and during the study.

“The study will set the foundation for future funding, reconstruction and upgrade of East River Road,” Nevinski said.

“It also provides a basis for the cities along the corridor (Coon Rapids and Fridley) to make both policy and capital investment decisions.”

The study reached four general conclusions.

• Residents along the corridor value its residential character and do not wish to see it change.

• East River Road will not be widened, although there may be impacts to certain blocks or properties.

• Limiting access to the corridor according to county spacing guidelines will increase safety and traffic flow, but this will change traffic patterns specifically.

• The study establishes a “visual quality” plan for the corridor to enhance its appearance.

According to Nevinski, few issues exist in the Coon Rapids segment of East River Road and impacts will be minimal.

The most notable impact will be a proposed change from full access to three-quarters access at 84th Lane and Larch streets intersections, which primarily impacts the neighborhood in the southeast area of East River Road and 85th Avenue, Nevinski said.

“Drivers northbound on East River Road will have a right-in/right-out access from these streets and drivers southbound on East River Road will be able to make a left turn into the neighborhood,” he said.

“However, drivers wishing to travel southbound on East River Road from the neighborhood will need to proceed to 85th Avenue and out to the stoplight.”

Another proposal in the study is to extend Palm Street north through Kennedy Park to link with 85th  Avenue, but Nevinski recommends this be evaluated as part of the parks master plan update which is currently in progress.

“Similarly, the study suggests that 85th Lane be redirected south to 85th Avenue,” he said.

According to Nevinski, the city owns right of way in this area which makes this proposal “relatively feasible,” he said.

In addition, a median proposed on East River Road at 87th Lane was opposed by the neighborhood and the study instead recommends monitoring the data for this intersection, Nevinski said.

At meetings and open houses, residents repeatedly asked about the extension of a trail/pathway from East River Road to Springbrook Nature Center, he said.

“The city’s most recent grant application to the DNR to fund a trail extension was denied, but the city will, with reasonable confidence, resubmit the application later this year,” Nevinski said.

None of the study recommendations are likely to occur in the short term.

According to Nevinski, the time horizon for implementation is some 10 to 15 years.

“Improvements will occur incrementally and will be funded mainly by federal dollars,” Nevinski said.

“Improvements may be small, such as the closing of a particular median, or large, such as the reconstruction of several miles of roadway.”

According to Kate Garwood, Anoka County Highway Department multi-modal coordinator, the county’s 2030 transportation plan identified several corridors which, when analyzed, showed a need for immediate attention because of anticipated capacity, safety and mobility issues resulting from planned growth.

CSAH 1 (East River Road) through Coon Rapids and Fridley was one showing the most urgent need, Garwood said.

The county’s 20-year transportation comprehensive plan identifies the stretch of East River Road from 610 to 694 as an eight-lane highway (it is currently a four-lane highway), according to Doug Fischer county highway engineer.

“In reality, an eight-lane highway is not going to happen,” Fischer said.

But traffic is going to continue to increase on East River Road and the study looked at ways to improve capacity on the road, he said.

But Garwood said any specific improvement projects would still need to go through an independent evaluation, public involvement and approval process.

Besides the four communitywide public information meetings, there were six specific neighborhood meetings at on-site locations to address issues, notably access from residential streets, as well as individual meetings with property owners, according to Garwood.

There  were also four meetings of the Policy Advisory Committee, which comprised elected officials from Coon Rapids and Fridley as well as Anoka County commissioners, whose districts included the corridor.

Councilmembers Paul Johnson and Scott Schulte represented Coon Rapids on the committee.

The study will become part of the Coon Rapids and Fridley comprehensive plan transportation component.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]