No environmental impact study needed for University project

No Environmental Impact Statement is required for Anoka County’s reconstruction project on University Avenue from 109th Avenue NE/Northdale Boulevard to Main Street/125th Avenue NE in Blaine and Coon Rapids.

On the recommendation of its Transportation Committee, the Anoka County Board March 11 approved a resolution declaring there is no need for an environmental impact statement following completion of an Environmental Assessment and Environmental Assessment Worksheet, which included a public hearing in December 2013, to determine environmental impacts of the project.

All county highway projects receiving federal dollars have to go through environmental documentation, but a large project like University Avenue requires a more complete process, according to Doug Fischer, county highway engineer and transportation division manager.

Issues that came up will be handled as part of the permit process, while the most serious issue, noise, is being dealt with by construction of several noise walls as part of the road construction to provide a buffer for adjacent residents, Fischer said.

“This is the final hurdle for the project,” he said. “Now we can complete the final plan and get ready for bidding,” he said.

The hope is to award a contract by mid-summer, Fischer said.

Construction this year will be limited relocating many utilities and rebuilding the bridge on University Avenue over Sand Creek, he said.

“This will be a two-year project with the road reconstruction itself taking place in 2015,” Fischer said.

Throughout the entire construction process, University Avenue will remain open to traffic, but there will be lane closures, he said.

The county board March 11 also took two actions relating to the county’s acquisition of nine homes for right of way needs on the Blaine side of University Avenue from 109th Avenue north to 111th Avenue.

Six of those parcels at 10943, 11001, 11007, 11013, 11019 and 11025 will be used by the Anoka County Community Action Program to “provide affordable housing for persons of low or moderate income,” according to the county board resolution authorizing the conveyance of the property to ACCAP.

According to Fischer, ACCAP will demolish the existing homes.

In addition, the county board approved a purchase of services agreement with PGM Construction Services for miscellaneous house demolition. This includes the remaining three properties the county purchased on University Avenue for the road reconstruction project – 11043, 11037 and 11031.

Those parcels will be used for storm water ponding, Fischer said.

Under the project, which covers 1.85 miles, the present two-lane roadway will be upgraded to a four-lane divided highway with concrete median, intersection improvements with dedicated left-turn lanes, concrete curb and gutter and construction of a pedestrian and bicycle trail on the west (Coon Rapids) side of the road.

As part of the project, some existing intersections will be reduced to right-in and right-out access.

The project has an estimated cost of $9.98 million, but the county has received a federal grant of $6.4 million. The balance of the cost will be paid by the county and the cities of Blaine and Coon Rapids.