Ramsey council wants interchange to be a visually appealing gateway

Not all the funding for the estimated $35 million interchange at Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard has been secured, but those who have been actively lobbying for funding from the state and federal government are confident that groundbreaking will happen this fall.

“It’s a great project for (the state) to do with bonding dollars because it puts people to work immediately,” said Elwyn Tinklenberg, a political consultant who is lobbying on behalf of Anoka County for this project. “And the county has done all the planning and design work, so it’s ready to go. And so yes, it could be under construction this fall.”

The Ramsey City Council is willing to cover costs to upgrade the appearance of the Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard interchange whenever it is constructed, but the material to be used and final costs have yet to be determined. File photo by Eric Hagen

The Ramsey City Council is willing to cover costs to upgrade the appearance of the Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard interchange whenever it is constructed, but the material to be used and final costs have yet to be determined. File photo by Eric Hagen

Whenever it is constructed, the Ramsey City Council would prefer this interchange not be a bland gray. A material called “Mankato Cut Stone” could be used to match the color scheme of the Ramsey Municipal Center. Thin brick veneer cast into the concrete could be incorporated into the design as could upgraded fencing, metal railings and more lights along the bridge’s sidewalk.

Landscaping upgrades are also possible adjacent to the bridge to soften the visual impact to neighboring properties.

“Obviously this is a gateway, almost to the metro area,” said Councilmember Randy Backous. “It’s the first thing people see. They were used to seeing a paintball range, (an adult) bookstore. I’d really like to get away from that image.”

Councilmember Mark Kuzma added, “I don’t want a cheap looking bridge. I think we should have something that looks nice that is a representation of our community.”

The cost of these upgrades has yet to be determined because the council wants its staff and interchange designer SRF Consulting Group to follow up with Anoka County on what type of maintenance costs there have been for other interchanges such as at Main Street and Highway 65 and Highway 10 and Hanson Boulevard.

“First and foremost, it’s a bridge and it has to be functional, but it would be nice for it to look better than concrete. But I want to follow-up on the maintenance issue,” Councilmember Chris Riley said.

Some rough estimates according to an SRF Consulting report is that it could cost $524,000 for bridge and noise wall enhancements, but the county could potentially cover $270,000 of that.

Improved landscaping may cost an additional $234,000 if the current design is kept. The city would have to cover all these costs.

Mayor Sarah Strommen asked if this is above and beyond what the city has budgeted for this project.

City Administrator Kurt Ulrich said the city has budgeted $5 million for this project through revenue from its Tax Increment Financing District. Ulrich said the county has been attempting to secure funding from various sources, already securing a $10 million grant. Depending on how much additional revenue is collected, Ulrich said the city’s portion could go up to $10 million with an equal amount being contributed by the county.

“We’re somewhat in that $5 million to $10 million range depending on where we land without state funding,” Ulrich told the council during its Feb. 25 workshop.

Ulrich said money for these enhancements could come out of this budget. The city’s contribution for this project would come from internal borrowing from other accounts, or a bond sale.

At the Feb. 26 Highway 10 open house, Tinklenberg said Highway 10 is not just important to the northwest metro. A state highway map shows a number of state highways feeding from Highway 10 like a watershed.

Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look noted that construction of this Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard interchange could build momentum for others projects along the corridor in Ramsey and Anoka.

“I’ve been to a lot of these (open houses) over the years. This is a great turnout,” Tinklenberg said. “It shows the importance of the corridor, what an impact it has on people’s lives every day and there’s concern.”

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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