County hires for Highway 10 interchange design

A consultant has been hired by the Anoka County Board to design the proposed Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard interchange in Ramsey.

SRF Consulting Group, Inc. has been hired by Anoka County for $1.8 million to design an interchange at Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard. File photo

SRF Consulting Group, Inc. has been hired by Anoka County for $1.8 million to design an interchange at Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard. File photo

On the recommendation of its Transportation Committee, the county board at its meeting Sept. 24 unanimously approved a professional services agreement with SRF Consulting Group, Inc. in the amount of $1,845,465,20.

Eighty percent of that cost will be paid from a federal grant the county has received with the balance coming from county funds, according Doug Fischer, county division manager for transportation and county highway engineer.

The SRF proposal came in well under the estimate for the design and engineering work, which was $2.5 million, Fischer said.

But whether it had the lowest cost of the five proposals submitted is not known, he said.

That’s because the federal funding required a quality based selection method to be used in analyzing the submitted proposals, not the lowest cost, Fischer said.

The firms who sent proposals to the county had their cost proposals in separate sealed envelopes from the scope of work and timing documents and once it was determined that SRF was the best qualified for the job, only their cost envelope was opened; the other four were returned to the consultants unopened, according to Fischer.

A team of staff from the county, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city of Ramsey reviewed the proposals.

One of the reasons that SRF was selected for the project was timing, Fischer said.

“We were looking for a time frame of completion by the end of July 2014,” he said.

“SRF’s proposal would have the design work done by the end of May 2014, two months early.”

The county hopes to have the project, a top priority for both the county and the city of Ramsey, under way in 2014.

Indeed, the project, which has an estimated price tag of $35 million, included as part of the 2014 capital improvements program approved by the county board Sept. 24.

But whether construction does start next year depends very much on whether the county’s request for $17 million is part of the state bonding bill that the 2014 Minnesota Legislature will consider.

Aug. 27, the county board 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 Fischer.

The county has also 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.

Fischer is optimistic those dollars will be approved, he said.

When members of the board came to see the development that has taken place round the Ramsey Commuter Rail station earlier this month, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who chairs the board, said he was “positive that will happen” when asked if the board would be contributing to the interchange project, but how much and when had not been finalized.

County board members Matt Look and Scott Schulte are Anoka County’s representatives on the CTIB board.

Earlier this year, the county received $10 million in state dollars for the project.

But the county was unsuccessful in acquiring funding for the interchange through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program, Fischer said.

There will also be local matching funds for the project. The county board and Ramsey City Council, in a memorandum of understanding, have each committed $10 million to the interchange project.

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.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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