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Cities make way for new bridge at I-35W and 96
A Ramsey County plan to replace the Highway 96 bridge over Interstate 35W in 2015 cleared two hurdles on its way to fruition as both Arden Hills and New Brighton granted municipal consent to the county and approved design plans for the bridge.
Arden Hills made way for the bridge plan at a July 30 city council meeting, while New Brighton approved the plan at its July 8 meeting. Both cities were required to provide municipal consent because the bridge sits on the border, essentially I-35W, between the two.
The county will seek final approval of the plan from the Minnesota Department of Transportation this fall. Construction of the bridge is planned to begin in the spring of 2015 with the build scheduled to be completed late that year.
As outlined by Ramsey County Project Manager Beth Engum at both city council meetings, the county plans to install a diverging diamond interchange for the bridge, a newer interchange design touted by Engum as less expensive and more safe than more familiar bridge designs.
The only example of a DDI in the Twin Cities can be found near Terminal 2 at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, at the overpass of Interstate 494 and 34th Avenue South. DDI designs present fewer accident points by switching traffic from the right side of the road to the left, in order to allow those turning first right, and then left, to do so without having to cross paths with oncoming traffic.
As explained by Engum, the bridge project is estimated to carry a $13.5 million price tag, $9 million of which will come from a 2014 legislative grant for projects related to the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant redevelopment. The 96 and I-35W interchange will be a major access point to the TCAAP redevelopment.
Additionally, MnDOT would contribute $2.5 million from its trunk highway funds, and the county would contribute $1.75 million using County State Aid Highway funds.
Arden Hills and New Brighton would be responsible for contributing $140,000 and $110,000, respectively, to pay for sidewalks, trails and trail connections on the bridge. Arden Hills is expected to pay more because a greater share of those amentities will be within the its borders.
Engum said construction delays would be minimized by completing the project in stages. A new section of the bridge would be constructed while the existing three lanes of traffic on the bridge are kept open; traffic would be switched from old to new sections as the construction progresses.
Engum said full closures of the bridge would be limited to “a handful of days or a weekend.”
Various other bridge projects will take place concurrently and after the I-35W and 96 bridge is reconstructed.
The County Road F bridge over I-35W will be closed for reconstruction in 2015. Because the road is the only way to access Mounds View High School, Arden Hills requested the closure to coincide with either the beginning or the end of the school year. The closure will likely occur in the spring of 2015, and the high school will still be accessible from the east.
Also in 2015, the County Road E bridge over Snelling Avenue will be closed for reconstruction; additional construction at the intersection of County Road F and Lexington Avenue will reduce traffic at the intersection but not close it.
In 2016, the bridges on County roads E2 and H going over I-35W will also be reconstructed.
As Arden Hills has been mired in seemingly endless road construction, an issue over which the council has voiced concern, Mayor David Grant attempted to temper frustrations at the July 30 meeting.
“It’s unfortunate that there will be impacts, but if you want new bridges and better infrastructure and the things that go along with the new bridges, you have to put up with the construction of the bridge,” he said.
Mike Munzenrider can be reached at email@example.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.