Anoka County not likely to share in new pot of state road dollars

There’s a new pot of state money for road construction in Minnesota.

But Anoka County Highway Engineer Doug Fischer doesn’t expect the county to share any of those dollars even though it has suggested a list of projects for funding to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The 2013 Minnesota Legislature created a Corridors of Commerce program authorizing the sale of up to $300 million in new bonds for the construction, reconstruction and improvements of trunk highways.

The legislation has two main goals – to provide additional highway capacity on segments where there are currently bottlenecks in the system and to improve the movement of freight and reduce barriers to commerce, the MnDOT website states.

According to Fischer, who is also Anoka County’s division manager for transportation, MnDOT did not seek formal applications for projects to be included in the program.

Rather, MnDOT asked for suggestions for potential projects, Fischer said.

The county has provided some suggestions, but Fischer does not think any of them will be included in the final cut, he said.

Projects suggested by the county include:

• Expansion of Highway 10 from Hanson Boulevard in Coon Rapids to 7th Avenue in Anoka from four to six lanes by adding one lane in each direction.

In this area of Highway 10, there are 68,000 to 79,000 vehicles per day, which is near or over the threshold capacity of a four-lane freeway, and demand indicates that traffic will exceed 110,000 vehicles per day by 2030, according to the county submission.

Expanding this section of Highway 10 would match the segment from Hanson east to Foley Boulevard, which was increased to six lanes a few years ago.

“The expansion of this section of freeway to six lanes will improve travel mobility for existing traffic volumes as well as better accommodate future mobility needs in the north/northwestern section of the metropolitan area,” the county states.

• Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard interchange in Ramsey, where final design work is about to start.

The county hired SRF Consulting in September to prepare the final design and hopes to have the project, a top priority for both the county and the city of Ramsey, under way in 2014.

But right now, for construction to start next year depends very much on whether the county’s request for $17 million is part of the state bonding bill that the 2014 Minnesota Legislature will consider.

The project has an estimated price tag of $35 million. Federal funding has been received for the interchange and both the county and city have committed dollars to the project.

• Reconstructing the signalized intersection at Highway 65 and 109th Avenue in Blaine to an interchange.

“We get more complaints about congestion at this intersection than any other in the county,” Fischer said.

The county has received some state funding to make some improvements at the intersection, he said.

That project would construct a dedicated right-turn lane and convert the existing through/right-turn lane to a through lane on 109th, at county road, at the intersection.

According to Fischer, MnDOT has already identified the projects it plans to complete with the $300 million in bonding money although it has not publicly announced them yet.

He is optimistic that the MnDOT list of projects will include the completion of TH 610 with the final leg from Highway 169 to I-94 in Maple Grove, Fischer said.

“That will be a benefit to Anoka County,” he said.

If included, that project would finish the east-west freeway connection from I-35W to I-94 through Blaine and Coon Rapids in Anoka County.

But if the bids on the projects that are chosen by MnDOT come in under budget and money is left over, then Fischer hopes that MnDOT will consider some of the Anoka County project suggestions, he said.

“By suggesting these projects for funding, we have put them on MnDOT’s radar,” Fischer said.

MnDOT plans to announce the projects that will be constructed with the funds Tuesday, Nov. 12, according Matt Shands, MnDOT Office of Transportation Systems Management.

“We are looking at shovel-ready projects that will be ready for construction in 2014 and 2015,” Shands said.

Projects will be selected on a statewide basis, he said.

MnDOT has divided the Corridors of Commerce program into five categories.

• Metro capacity improvement.

• Interregional corridor capacity improvement.

• Statewide freight bottlenecks.

• Main street enhancements.

• Freight system preservation.

“This initial bond funding is intended to serve as a ‘down payment’ on a larger ongoing program,” said Commissioner of Transportation Charles Zelle in a letter to “key stakeholders” including Anoka County.

Peter Bodley is at
[email protected]