Viking Boulevard project open house held in East Bethel

The Anoka County Highway Department Dec. 18 hosted an open house on a proposed Viking Boulevard project in East Bethel slated for next year.

Joey (left) and Robin (right) Anderson ask questions to Peg Flaig, right of way specialist for the Anoka County Highway Department, about the Viking Boulevard road project happening next year. Photo by Eric Hagen
Joey (left) and Robin (right) Anderson ask questions to Peg Flaig, right of way specialist for the Anoka County Highway Department, about the Viking Boulevard road project happening next year. Photo by Eric Hagen

The segment is 1.23 miles long and goes from 1,365 feet east of University Avenue to Highway 65. The road will remain two lanes, but the bituminous surface will be replaced by a more durable concrete surface.

Residents who attended the open house are supportive of the project.

“I’m really happy to see they’re making this improvement,” said Paul Kohl, who was at the open house with his wife Kathy. “It’s rough and it needs to be safer than it is.”

Robin and Joey Anderson have lived on Madison Street near Viking Boulevard since 1977 and have seen past rehabilitation attempts. Robin hopes the new Viking Boulevard turns out as good as Crosstown Boulevard did.

Robin said the road gets “wavy” as you get near Highway 65 and it is easy to get stuck in the very low areas near the Highway 65 intersection after a big winter storm because the snow drifts there.

“They don’t have good soil out there,” Robin said. “It’s sod country. It needs a good solid base.”

Mucking out the swampy soils

The county plans to fix this “rough” and “wavy” road by mucking out the bad soil and replacing it with granular material to provide a more solid base in the eastern portion of the project.

County Engineer Doug Fischer is estimating this project will cost $5.2 million. The county will cover $3.5 million of that, while Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) will contribute $1.7 million to get rid of the swampy soils and get the pipes in the ground.

The western half of Viking Boulevard in this project area already has good soil beneath it, so the county can mill the existing four inches of bituminous off the road base and pave six inches of concrete on top of that, according to Curt Kobilarcsik, engineering program manager.

Improving the soils will benefit more than the road. It also helps the sewer and water project on which the city of East Bethel and the MCES are partnering.

Sewer and water service is going to be provided to properties on the west side of Highway 65 and mostly south of Viking Boulevard to the Ham Lake border, although there will be some development on the northwest corner of Highway 65 and Viking Boulevard.

The city does not have to financially contribute to the Viking Boulevard project, according to East Bethel City Administrator Jack Davis.

But the city has costs associated with the sewer and water project and the soil corrections and the fact the pipes placement will happen during the road project will save the city approximately $69,000, according to East Bethel City Engineer Craig Jochum.

MCES spokesperson Tim O’Donnell said its costs will be “approximately the same as the original design.”

The old design was to use pilings on top of the bad soil. This meant driving steel pipes down into good soil and filling the pipes with concrete. Concrete grade beams are built across the tops of the pipes to provide the support for the pipe, according to O’Donnell.

The new plan is to get rid of the bad soil and construct the pipes on good material.

An additional benefit to MCES and the city is having these pipes placed during road reconstruction. The old plan was to directional bore the three pipes under Viking Boulevard. The new plan is to place the pipes under the road when it is already torn up.

Curt Strandlund, who owns land near Viking Boulevard and the Classic Construction business, said it is nice to see everyone working together so the pipes installation can happen at the same time as the road project.

“This will be a better system at the end of the day for everyone,” Jochum said.

Road closure, access changes

On her way out of the open house, one resident commented, “It will be nice to get the road fixed,” and “I just needed to figure out which way to send my day care parents.”

According to the county’s timeline, the swampy soils on the east side of the project between Jackson Street and Highway 65 will start being excavated in early January. At that time, this segment of Viking Boulevard will be closed, although residents living in the area can approach their access from the west.

The county in the spring will close the road at Crooked Brook near Madison Street so a culvert can be replaced, but the rest of Viking Boulevard would be open to two-lane traffic.

For the remainder of the project through the early summer, drivers will be able to travel east on Viking Boulevard, but traffic going west will have to find an alternative route.

The county always recommends the nearest county roads or state highway for detours, so the suggested detour is to go north on Highway 65, west on Sims Road (County Road 86), south on Cedar Drive (County Road 13) and east on Viking Boulevard (County Road 22).

When the road is finished, drivers will notice more than the new concrete.

Starting from the west end of the project and going east, Kobilarcsik said there will be a new bypass lane at Fifth Street for eastbound traffic, the Madison Street access will be closed, new left-turn lanes for both eastbound and westbound traffic turning onto Jackson Street and a new left-turn lane to accommodate a future city street.

Davis said the new city street would not be constructed at this time. It is part of the future service road plan, but the county will be making this part of Viking Boulevard wide enough to accommodate a future left-turn lane and there will be a curb cut where the future city street will be located.

This future service road will not cross to the south side of Viking Boulevard because of a large wetland in that area, according to Davis.

Joey and Robin Anderson’s home on Madison Street is right next to Viking Boulevard, so they would be impacted the most by the Madison Street access closing.

Kobilarcsik said a dead-end road must have a cul-de-sac so fire trucks can turn around if they ever have to get back in that neighborhood.

The issue with cul-de-sacs is they take more land and the Andersons could be losing some land to this. Robin Anderson said the county is giving them all the information they can right now and they will continue to talk through alternative ideas.

Paul and Kathy Kohl live on the property just south of the Andersons. Paul Kohl said the Madison Street access was really convenient, so he does not like that it will be closing and that they will have to go over to Jackson Street, but he is pleased with the overall project because of the additional turn lanes.

Making left turns from Viking Boulevard to the local streets is tough because vehicles are traveling so fast behind them and following close, he said.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]