Anoka County is once again seeking state bonding dollars to help pay for the proposed Highway 10-Armstrong Boulevard interchange project in Ramsey.
On the recommendation of its Public Works Committee, the Anoka County Board Aug. 27 approved a resolution requesting state bonding for the interchange and Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad grade separation at Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard.
The amount sought, $17 million, is the same figure the county asked for at 2012 session of the Minnesota Legislature.
That figure was included in the 2012 Transportation Bonding Bill before the bill was essentially eliminated, according to Doug Fischer, county highway engineer.
“With 2013 being a traditional bonding year at the Capitol, we hope to reintroduce this legislation,” Fischer said.
The project, including design and engineering, right of way acquisition and construction, has an estimated $35 million price tag and has been included as part of the county’s capital improvements program for several years.
Earlier this year, the county received $10 million in federal Corridor Investment Management Strategy dollars for the project.
In addition, the county had applied for federal funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program, Fischer said.
Although the project did not receive that federal grant, the county and city learned earlier this month.
And the county also has sent a funding application to the regional Counties Transit Improvement Board, of which Anoka County is a member.
The board helps fund transportation, especially transit, projects through a quarter-cent sales tax charged in Anoka, Dakota. Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties.
What makes the county eligible for these dollars is the fact that the interchange will go over the railroad tracks, which are very close to the Highway 10-Armstrong Boulevard intersection and carry the Northstar Commuter Rail trains, according to Fischer.
Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look, a member of the Counties Transit Improvement Board, has heard the interchange could get about $10 million from this group with $2.4 million of that coming this fall.
Counties Transit Improvement Board Chairperson Peter McLaughlin, who sits on the Hennepin County Board, said while touring the COR Friday morning that he is positive the transit board will contribute to this project, but the timing has yet to be determined.
There will also be local matching funds for the project. The Anoka County Board and Ramsey City Council, in a memorandum of understanding, have each committed $10 million to the interchange project.
“But we are still looking at a shortfall in funds for the project,” Fischer said.
Earlier this year, the county received more than $1 million in federal dollars to move forward with design and engineering work on the interchange project.
The federal grant will fund 80 percent of the design and engineering costs with the county picking up the balance.
The deadline for engineering firms to submit responses to a request for proposal sent out by the county for the project was Aug. 28.
There have been five responses, according to Fischer.
A staff recommendation on the firm to be selected is scheduled to go to the county board’s Public Works Committee for consideration Monday, Sept. 16 and to the full county board for final action Tuesday, Sept. 24.
According to Fischer, Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard (County State Aid Highway 83) is a deficient, at-grade signalized intersection.
With its location within 50 feet of the rail crossing, where some 80 trains travel the corridor daily, train delays create vehicle stacking issues causing dangerous safety conditions to the traveling public and immobilizing police, fire and emergency responders, Fischer said.
According to the resolution passed by the county board requesting state bonding for the project, an interchange at Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard will provide “safe and efficient access to the Ramsey COR development north of Highway 10, as well as development proposed south of the highway stimulating economic development, creating jobs and providing access to the Ramsey Northstar transit station.”
Ramsey addresses sign visibility
A downside of an interchange is it can block business signs.
To alleviate this problem, the Ramsey City Council Aug. 27 voted to allow for taller and larger signs near this intersection, which is exactly what the Blaine City Council did after the Main Street-Highway 65 interchange was constructed.
Ramsey previously allowed a maximum sign height of 25 feet and 100 square feet for the size of the sign face on each side. The new overlay district at this intersection allows for up to 50 feet high and 150 square feet for sign face size.
Mayor Sarah Strommen and Councilmember Jason Tossey said business owners have raised concerns raised about losing visibility.
“They’ll be able to have visibility from the highway,” Tossey said regarding this new ordinance.
Staff Writer Eric Hagen contributed to this report.
Peter Bodley is at firstname.lastname@example.org