Highway 169 construction to begin in coming weeks

By Megan Hopps

The Highway 169 improvement project is a $15 million multi-agency roadway improvement project.

The city of Champlin has invested $4 million and additional funding came from federal and state government agencies. The scope of work to be completed includes the reconstruction of Highway 169 from the Anoka-Champlin Bridge to Hayden Lake Road. The construction includes the repair of the two Elm Creek Bridges, the softening of the curve as Highway 169 meets West River Road as well as a pedestrian underpass just north of that same intersection. Project construction is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks.

Where there is now a three-way intersection at Highway 169 and West River Road, there will soon be a four-way intersection to include Dean Avenue. As part of the project, it was required that the city look into noise walls to address the potential noise impacts of the project and a landscaping plan including lighting, signs and decorative shrubs is currently being discussed and designed.

The city is taking the lead on the project, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation is leading the project involving the replacement of the Elm Creek bridges. Essentially, the organizations have collaborated to complete two projects at once. MnDOT officials said the project is expected to be complete in late 2018.

The city started working on the project back in 2011. At that time, it began creating concept plans and eventually submitted those plans to secure funding for the newly designed road improvements. The city secured $6.5 million in federal funding for the project and matched $1.7 million as part of the grant requirements. MnDOT is contributing nearly $4 million for road improvements and the replacement of both Elm Creek bridges.

“These two bridges are in a failed condition,” Heitkamp said of the Elm Creek Bridges. “That’s why MNDot has really expedited the process here.”

The Elm Creek bridges were built in 1956. The condition of the bridges has slowly deteriorated due to poor drainage and the continuous salting of the road. Project Manager Gustofson said the new bridges have a life expectancy of 75 years.

The project involves the lengthening of all turn lanes on 169 as well as an addition of an access point from West River Road to the Mississippi Point Park area. Miller and Dayton Roads will be realigned and there will be full turn lanes at that intersection as well. As required by MnDOT, the access at Dowlin will be closed.

“That was a safety improvement that was needed to maintain funding,” said City Engineer Tim Hanson. “One of the bigger aspects to the project is that we are installing a pedestrian underpass just north of the realigned intersection to tie in with the parks system.”

The intent is to create a trail that will connect to Three Rivers’ West Mississippi River Regional Trail to the east and the Park Reserve to the west.

In order for MnDOT to agree to participate in the project, five Highway 169 access points were required to be closed. Those access points include Doris Kemp Park, both ends of Dowlin Street, the connection near the Sinclair Gas Station and the realignment of the intersection at 169 and West River Road.

“Our biggest concern is the level of east/west road closures associated with this project,” said City Administrator Bret Heitkamp. “We move 50,000 cars north/south per day, but we as Champlin residents need to move east and west.”

Project Manager Lee Gustofson said MnDOT will shift all traffic to the east first. While Highway 169 is two lanes with traffic flowing north and south, traffic will be shifted first to the north-bound lanes with one lane moving in each direction. At that time, the construction crew will also focus their efforts on the West River Road intersection improvements. Traffic will then be shifted to the west in the spring of 2018 again, with one lane moving each direction.

“One of the goals of the project is to get it done as quickly as possible so the impacts are minimized to the greatest extent possible,” Gustofson said.

Gustofson works for the engineering company responsible for the project, WSB and Associates. He said some work will occur during the winter months, but that it will not affect traffic.

“There’s a lot to be done in 2018, but by starting in 2017, it allows a lot of stuff to happen so we can really hit it hard in 2018,” Gustofson said. “At the end of 2018, the final pavement’s going to be in. You’re not going to have the pretty landscaping, you may not have the sod, but essentially you’ll have all lanes back and you can drive it.”

The city will be hiring a landscaping contractor to complete the finishing touches of the project in 2019 and the project is expected to cost approximately $1 million. This will not greatly impact traffic flow on the highway, Gustofson said. The landscaping project includes the addition of a median extending just south of the Anoka-Champlin bridge to the intersection at West River Road. That median and the right-of-way on either side of the highway will be landscaped to include architectural enhancements, a city monument, a community message board, ornamental railings, irrigation, up-lighting, landscaping and new streetlights that can incorporate banners and holiday decorations.

“Because this is a federal project, every conduit, irrigation head and streetlight had to be included in the scope of this project,” Heitkamp said. “I think when you come across the bridge from Anoka, you’re going to realize you’ve landed in Champlin.”

For more information on the project, contact Champlin City Engineer Tim Hanson at [email protected] or visit MnDot’s website at www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/hwy169champlin/