Anoka County and the city of Ramsey have another $10 million to use for the proposed Highway 10-Armstrong Boulevard interchange.
Anoka County Engineer Doug Fischer emailed public officials the afternoon of June 25 to say that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) had just notified him that the project would receive a $10 million Corridor Investment Management Strategy grant. Ramsey Councilmember Jason Tossey made the announcement at that evening’s council meeting.
“I’m always hesitant to say there’s a sure thing in city government and politics, but I think this is as close as we can get without saying it,” Tossey said. “It’s fantastic news for us.”
The county and city still have some work to do before ground can be broken. At the same time Fischer found out the project got the $10 million, he learned that the county would not receive any of the $7 million it requested through another state grant program.
There is optimism this project will happen. Tossey said if they were running a half-marathon, they would be at the 12th mile.
The new interchange could cost about $35 million and this $10 million state grant is the largest contribution so far. The county has spent about $4 million and the city about $2 million so far on right of way acquisition and design work, according to Anoka County Commissioner and former Ramsey Councilmember Matt Look.
Look said the chairperson of the Counties Transit Improvement Board has given verbal support for the project.
Look heard the interchange could get about $10 million from this group with $2.4 million of that coming this fall. This board funds projects through a quarter-cent sales tax charged in Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties.
The county is also seeking a $10 million federal grant and will make another state bonding bill request the next session, Look said.
Tossey said this has been a goal of the council since he was sworn in and it took something that did not have a lot of momentum and moved it forward. He said it has been great to watch the process move along and thanked those who helped make this happen.
County and city officials have visited capitols of the nation and Minnesota to lobby for this project. On April 1 and May 31 respectively, U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar came to the Fountains of Ramsey to listen directly to people who would benefit from an interchange.
The push for the interchange has focused on public safety and economic development.
Police officers, firefighters and ambulance drivers have to wait for the train to pass or go to the Thurston Avenue bridge in Anoka if they get a call on the south side of the city of Ramsey, which includes the whole Highway 10 corridor.
Coon Rapids Councilmember Jerry Koch is a realtor and was recently showing homes in the northwest metro to a buyer. They got stuck in Highway 10 traffic on a Thursday evening and arrived 15 minutes later than Koch because they did not know the back roads.
When showing this same person another home, the back end of their truck was perched over the railroad tracks on Armstrong Boulevard, so Koch edged as far as he could onto Highway 10 to get his client’s truck off the tracks. The proximity of the tracks to Highway 10 is a huge problem at Armstrong Boulevard compared with other nearby Highway 10 intersections.
Koch recently told ABC Newspapers that despite the situation, he is closing on a home in the area with this buyer.
Business owners and developers and land brokers have also stressed that an overpass could help the COR development and other development along Highway 10 if traffic moves more efficiently, although the point has been made that the Armstrong interchange is just another step.
Developing interchanges at Sunfish Lake Boulevard and Thurston Avenue and putting a Fairoak Avenue bridge over Highway 10 are other long-term goals that Franken and Klobuchar heard about.
Marty Fisher of Premier Commercial Properties in Ramsey said more development is going to Maple Grove and Rogers because I-94 is better than Highway 10. He usually show clients prospective properties between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. so they do not see the traffic backing up. Companies do not want to deal with losing productivity because employees are stuck in traffic.
“I think the dedicated focus to fixing Highway 10 as Councilmember Tossey said has really paid off,” said Mayor Sarah Strommen. “Anoka County has been a very strong partner, so we owe them a debt of gratitude and also to a group of community members and business members who have been working on this issue.”
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org