People packed the Coon Rapids City Council chambers at the Coon Rapids Civic Center Aug. 23 at the start of an Anoka County Highway Department open house on its proposed project to reconstruct a portion of Foley Boulevard in Coon Rapids.
Residents living in the neighborhood of the project, which runs from Highway 10 to Egret Boulevard, received individual notices from the highway department inviting them to the two-hour open house.
“People generally come at the start of these meetings,” said Coon Rapids City Engineer Doug Vierzba, who attended the meeting.
“However, the numbers petered out toward the end of the open house.”
Maps showing the preliminary design, which includes closing of some of the residential streets intersections with Foley on that stretch, were available for residents to look at and comment on, both verbally and in writing on cards that were made available by the county highway department.
The verbal and written comments from the meeting will be summarized and published on the county website for public viewing.
There was concern from many people, and in some cases outright opposition, to the proposed closing of some residential streets’ intersections with Foley.
Guy Wheelock, who lives on 106th Avenue, east of Foley, was one of them.
He handed a petition with 48 signatures to county highway department officials objecting to the closing of the Foley intersection with 106th Avenue.
Only six residents he spoke to as he circulated the petition on 106th, Dogwood and Goldenrod streets refused to sign, Wheelock said.
Wheelock has lived at his home for 30 years, he said. “If I had wanted to live on a cul-de-sac, I would have done so 30 years ago,” Wheelock said.
Nor did he think that the project would reduce congestion and accidents as the county is suggesting, according to Wheelock.
“People are driving 50 and 60 miles an hour; that’s what is causing the accidents,” Wheelock said.
The county has received federal funding to pay for most of the upgrade of this section of Foley, which is less than a mile in length and is scheduled for construction in 2014.
The estimated cost of the work is $2.9 million and the federal grant will contribute $2.4 million, according to County Highway Engineer Doug Fischer.
Right now, this segment of Foley has two lanes in each direction, no medians, access from all residential side streets and carries a high volume of traffic.
Under the preliminary design on display at the open house, there will be construction of dedicated left- and right-turn lanes, a center median, replacement of the existing traffic signals at 101st Avenue and Egret Boulevard, adding shoulders, reconstruction of a sidewalk and construction of a bike/pedestrian trail.
No one rides their bikes on Foley, Wheelock said.
According to the preliminary layout map on the county highway department website, there will be full access intersections at 101st Avenue, 102nd Lane, 105th Avenue and at Egret.
But 102nd Avenue will be limited to right-in and right-out, so will 104th Avenue.
And there will be no access to Foley from 104th Lane, 105th Lane and 106th Avenue, which will become cul-de-sacs.
John Fox, who lives on 109th Lane off Foley was happy to see the county’s proposal to reconstruct the road.
While he lives north of this project, Fox said the entire stretch of Foley needs to be upgraded because of the damage done by truck traffic.
The stretch of Foley where Fox lives from Egret to Northdale boulevards is slated for reconstruction in 2015-2016.
The county recently received federal dollars totaling $2,998,000 for the project which has an estimated price tag of $3,735,000.
That project would also create a four-lane divided roadway with trails, sidewalks, drainage ponds, signal lights and dedicated turn lane.
“I am looking forward to this getting done,” Fox said.
Once both Foley projects are completed, there will be bike/pedestrian trails all the way to Bunker Hills Regional Park since there is also a bike lane and sidewalk on Foley, north of Northdale, Vierzba said.
According to Andrew Witter, assistant county highway engineer, this was the first time that residents had seen a plan for the upgrade of Foley and as happens with change, it did generate some consternation, but there were others who were quite pleased with what is being proposed.
“This was an initial reaction and we will take what we heard, redefine the design and make some tweaks,” Witter said.
A second public open house to unveil the updated project design will take place in early 2013, he said.
The Anoka County Board Tuesday, on the recommendation of its Public Works Committee, authorized the preparation of a highway right of way plat for the project.
According to information provided to the county board, the reconstruction project is expected to impact 53 parcels where right of way acquisition for the project could potentially take place.
There were questions from residents at the open house Aug. 23 about how much of their property would be taken because of the project, Witter said.
Right now, all of three or four properties could be taken for the project, but that could change as the design work continues and there would likely be more definitive answers on property acquisition at the second open house, according to Witter.
A technical advisory committee comprising engineering staff from the county and the city of Coon Rapids, as well as the consultant retained by the county to do the environmental work, has been and will continue to meet monthly on the project, while technical staff from local, regional, state and federal agencies have been scheduling agency coordination meetings.
Comments or questions on the project should be sent to Matthew Parent, county highway department planning project manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 763-862-4291.
Peter Bodley is at email@example.com