With funding on the line for the Riverdale Drive service road extension and the Armstrong Boulevard interchange, the Ramsey City Council March 25 signed off on a written agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to phase in access closings on Highway 10 at Alpaca and Traprock streets.
City Engineer Bruce Westby said MnDOT reached verbal agreements with city staff on most of the current proposals, but the council’s March 25 approval puts these agreements in writing. Councilmembers Randy Backous and John LeTourneau were absent from the meeting, but the vote was 5-0 to approve the agreement.
Councilmember Chris Riley appreciates the phased approach.
“It’s not like on day one there’s a big effect and you can no longer get someplace,” Riley said. “I think that’s a great answer and I appreciate it, and I hope the businesses and residents appreciate it as well.”
Riverdale Drive is the service road south of Highway 10, but it currently has a gap just east of Armstrong Boulevard to Ramsey Boulevard. This gap will be filled over the course of two different projects.
MnDOT had previously said it could contribute $702,000 to the city for construction of the first phase extension this year all the way to Traprock Street, but the city council would need to ratify the Highway 10 access change agreements at Alpaca and Traprock streets, which it did March 25.
Alpaca Street will lose its access to Highway 10 when the Riverdale Drive extension is completed to Traprock Street. This means Alpaca Estates residents would have to access Highway 10 at either Armstrong Boulevard or Traprock Street.
Traprock Street access loss
Traprock Street is not heavily used now because it only goes south to Mississippi West Regional Park. People leaving businesses on the north side of Highway 10 between Ramsey Boulevard and Traprock Street can now make a U-turn at this intersection to head east on Highway 10.
MnDOT’s long-range vision is for Traprock Street to have no access to Highway 10, but it has a three-phase plan to make this happen once nearby road improvement projects are completed.
After the first phase Riverdale Drive project is completed to Traprock Street, Traprock Street and Highway 10 would become a three-quarters intersection.
This means Alpaca Estates residents heading west on Highway 10 could still make a left at Traprock Street if they do not want to go all the way to Armstrong Boulevard and wait at a traffic signal to turn left. Business patrons and supply trucks could still make a U-turn to head east.
Westby said once the Armstrong Boulevard interchange is completed, the Highway 10 median at Traprock Street would close and with it the U-turn option for the businesses such as Anoka-Ramsey Farm and Garden and RV World. This would leave a right-in, right-out access at Traprock Street. The U-turn option would close with it.
Traprock Street would lose this right-in, right-out and all of its access to Highway 10 once Riverdale Drive is extended to Ramsey Boulevard because drivers could then access the service road at Ramsey or Armstrong boulevards.
While the first phase of the Riverdale Drive extension project to Traprock Street will take place this year and there is optimism amongst city and county officials that the Armstrong Boulevard interchange project will happen, it will take some time for the service road to be extended to Ramsey Boulevard, according to Westby.
That is why MnDOT will be constructing the three-quarters access at Highway 10 and Traprock Street rather than just closing off its access now, Westby said. He noted that even if the Armstrong Boulevard interchange breaks ground this year (as was mentioned at a Feb. 26 Highway 10 access study open house) it would still take two construction seasons to build it.
“MnDOT feels the benefit provided by this access conversion will justify the expense since it will be used for at least two years,” Westby said.
There have been changes in city staff and on the council since 2011, but most of the access proposals today are the same as in 2011 and when there were 2013 public hearings on the first phase Riverdale Drive extension project. Westby said the big change is the city was not aware last year that MnDOT ultimately wanted to close the Highway 10 median at Traprock Street.
Due to this change, Westby and a MnDOT representative at the March 25 meeting gave the council the option of tabling the vote on the agreement to April 8 so that the public could be notified about these access changes. The council opted to move ahead right away.
“I think primarily MnDOT just wants those assurances that this is out there in writing and the city agrees to those closures based on those triggering events,” Westby said.
In May of 2013, there were 47 petition signatures of Alpaca Estates residents opposing the Riverdale Drive extension to Traprock.
Mayor Sarah Strommen said the council has already decided to do the service road project and its number one priority is now getting funding for the Armstrong Boulevard interchange.
Strommen and other councilmembers did not want to delay voting on these access agreements with MnDOT any longer and potentially lose the $702,000 for the service road and any chance of getting state money for the interchange. The council did ask Westby to notify residents of the council’s approval of this agreement with MnDOT.
“I don’t want to jeopardize all the work we’ve put in on the Armstrong Boulevard overpass,” Councilmember Jason Tossey said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org