The Anoka County Highway Department will move forward with purchasing right of way it needs for a reconstructed University Avenue between 109th and 125th avenues now that the city councils of Blaine and Coon Rapids have signed off on the joint powers agreements (JPA).
The Blaine City Council unanimously approved its JPA April 4. Councilmembers Mike Bourke and Dave Clark were absent from the meeting.
Anoka County Engineer Doug Fischer said the county this year will work on purchasing land along the corridor as well as nine homes on Blaine’s side of University Avenue that are very close to the road. Construction will not be able to start until next year at the earliest.
The plan is to make the entire roadway four lanes with a concrete median that would only be open at the busiest intersections. This road averages 14,000 vehicles a day, but the county estimates that daily traffic volumes by 2034 will range from 18,000 to 22,000.
All the traffic signals in place now will remain, although the 111th Avenue intersection will be completely redone so both sides of the road line up. A new traffic signal will be going in by the Four Seasons Mobile Home Park.
Morningside Memorial Gardens on Coon Rapids’ side along with 118th and 120th avenues will be three-quarters intersections. What this means is that all turn movements with the exception of left turns onto University Avenue from these roadways would be allowed.
The intersections at 115th Avenue, 120th Lane and 124th Lane will be right-in, right-out only.
There will also be eight-foot wide pedestrian/bicycle paths on both sides of the road.
The county estimates Blaine will be responsible for almost $450,000 of the total $9.9 million reconstruction costs. About $6.4 million will come from a federal government grant and the remainder will be paid for by the county and two cities.
Both the Blaine and Coon Rapids councils approved some aesthetic upgrades to the noise walls going in, which will be eight to 11 feet high depending on the projected noise volume on the property.
Concern about homes
There are more than a dozen homes on Blaine’s side of University Avenue between 109th and 111th avenues. The county already owns four properties for the Anoka County Community Action Program (ACCAP).
Fischer said the county is looking to purchase the nine homes south of 111th Avenue in Blaine, going as far as 10943 University Ave. N.E. All were built in 1952, according to county property records.
“I can assure you that we will be dealing with this in the proper manner,” Fischer told the council. “Obviously we feel the houses are too close to the road, but again, we have to have that conversation with the individual homeowners.”
One resident pointed out a project boundary stake halfway up his driveway.
Jim Crapser has lived in his home for 17 years. It can get noisy at times, but he said anybody who lives along a busy road would have the same issue.
“When heavy trucks go past, I can feel vibrations in the house,” Crapser said. “It got to the point where I tuned out the noise.”
Brandon Roback said the former owners remodeled before he moved to his Blaine home three years ago and they added enough insulation so the road noise is not very loud. One positive he sees of living along a heavily traveled road is less chance of vandalism.
These homeowners all mentioned that it can be difficult to back out of their driveway at times, but they eventually get out. One man who has a large trailer said he backs it into his driveway late at night.
Mayor Tom Ryan said an alley could have been constructed behind these homes when they were first built, but they still would have been close to University Avenue.
“Those people have put up with a lot,” Ryan said. “Whatever we could do would be great.”
Crapser and Roback said they have already been contacted by the county. Roback said he understands that they are in the old part of Blaine and was expecting the county would want to buy and demolish his home when he heard about the road project.
Despite the challenge on the south end of the project on Blaine’s side, Fischer said the University Avenue project has actually not been as difficult as some other recent county road projects because there are not a lot of driveways and accesses to University Avenue other than on the south end of the project. This county also had quite a bit of right of way dedicated.
There are two more homes between the 1952 houses and the ACCAP property that were built in the late 1980s. Fischer said the county is not looking at purchasing these homes at this time.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org