With less than a month until Highway 65 construction commences, business owners are bracing for the detours and dust that come with roadwork.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation intends to repave a 4-mile stretch of Highway 65, from 53rd Avenue in Fridley to County Highway 10 in Spring Lake Park.
Construction is set to begin June 11 and extend through mid-October.
Upgrades should last 15 years, according to Paul Jung, north area engineer with MnDOT.
In addition to resurfacing the road, construction crews will update pedestrian crossings and bus stops. Drainage structures and guardrails will also be repaired.
For the first half of the project, southbound lanes will be closed from County Highway 10 to Medtronic Parkway, but lanes will reopen from County Highway 10 to 81st Avenue by the Fourth of July.
In the project’s second half, northbound lands will close, but several weeks in, Highway 65 will reopen from Medtronic Parkway to Moore Lake Drive.
Off-peak lane closures will affect the stretch of highway between 53rd Avenue and Moore Lake Drive in July.
Intersections will be closed periodically for two weeks at a time to adjust traffic signals to suit the road’s new, greater height. No adjacent intersections will be closed simultaneously, Jung said.
MnDOT counts show that 35,000 cars travel up and down Highway 65 daily, approximately 17,500 in each direction.
To avoid that volume of traffic on city and county roadways, through traffic will be detoured some distance from the corridor – from Highway 10 to Interstate 35W to Interstate 694, and Interstate 694 to Highway 252, Highway 610 and Highway 10.
Initially, no local detours were proposed, but after some urging by the Fridley and Spring Lake Park communities, MnDOT will develop signage to detour local traffic to Old Central Avenue.
For the past several months, state and local government officials, school administrators and business owners have pushed for crossovers, which would allow traffic to flow both north and south on one side of the median.
MnDOT has resisted that push because crossovers would increase the project’s cost, duration and safety risks, according to Jung.
At an open house meeting for business leaders April 30, held at the Fridley Community Center, businesspeople continued to press MnDOT about crossovers.
“In a nutshell, that works well in a rural area,” Jung said. Installing drainage systems, traffic signals, turn lanes and other temporary measures necessary in the metro area would add to the project’s cost – currently estimated at $9.3 million – and add a month or so to the project’s time frame, likely pushing construction into two seasons, Jung said.
Moving past the idea of crossovers, businesspeople focused their questions on planned detours.
Jung responded to their questions and delivered a presentation about MnDOT’s plans to the crowd of approximately 40.
SLP businesses share concerns
Jim Berg, manager of the Cottens’ NAPA Auto Parts store in Spring Lake Park, is concerned not only about how customers will find their way to the store, but also about how the store will make its deliveries, which account for 70 percent of its business. “We’ve got to be able to get around,” he said.
Susan Mashak, a waitress at Hopes Chinese Restaurant in Spring Lake Park, is worried that with four other Chinese restaurants within a mile of Hopes, even though Hopes is a “destination,” customers will opt for convenience and get their Chinese fix elsewhere, she said.
Before the meeting, she wasn’t aware construction would last well into the fall. “Oh, well. It’s life,” Mashak said. “You’ve got to deal with it.”
Andrew Schmitz, owner of Biff’s Sports Bar and Grill in Spring Lake Park, is being proactive about keeping people in the bar, he said. Schmitz is hoping advance sign-ups for darts, pool and volleyball will outweigh inconvenient access.
MetroNorth and Twin Cities North chambers of commerce hosted an informal meeting immediately before MnDOT’s open house, reminding businesspeople that they need to take the initiative to contact MnDOT if construction hinders their business this summer and fall.
MnDOT will host a second open house May 21, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Fridley Community Center, 6085 Seventh St. NE. This one is geared toward the general public.
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org