“I never thought I’d live long enough (to see this).”
That's what Mayor Jeff Jacobs said on Monday during a City Council study session as plans to reconstruct and renovate Highway 100 in St. Louis Park seemed to take a big step forward.
Council and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have seemingly found a layout that both sides can agree on. By the end of the month, MnDOT is expected to formally submit a request for municipal consent. Assuming council grants this consent, MnDOT would then be able to proceed with the next steps in the project, including opening bids and awarding a construction contract by spring of 2014.
This is a far cry from the in years past.
After preliminary talks over the project began to pick up in the early 1990s, it was cemented as a top construction priority for the state in MnDOT’s 1996 highway plan. City manager Tom Harmening said at this time, the city was told a project would start in 2005.
However, that was put on hold in 2003, and as MnDOT focused on cross-town construction to Interstate Highway 35, the city worked with the department on an interim improvement project slated for 2006. That interim project was completed, but the full project remained, and in 2005 the city received a letter from then-Commissioner of Transportation Carol Molnau that said the project would be delayed until 2014 because MnDOT simply had insufficient funds to complete the work, which at the time was estimated in the ballpark of $140 million.
Now, costs are down to somewhere around $80 million. The project would widen the Minnetonka Boulevard bridge, pushing out exits and making the area a traditional diamond interchange (see attached PDF). This would mean no more exiting onto Vernon Avenue near the , for instance, before actually getting onto Minnetonka. Instead, direct connections between Highway 100 and Minnetonka would be established.
Additionally, the exit and entrance ramps on the west side of Highway 100 at the Highway 7 interchange would be revised, and noisewalls would be added along the route.
If plans stay on track, construction is scheduled to start in 2015 and wrap up in 2017.
MnDOT engineer April Crockett, who is overseeing the project, said all signs point to this being a go.
"Both the city and MnDOT are excited to get this project underway and moving forward," she said in an email. "It’s been a long time coming and we are now at a point, which I believe we can all agree, is the most appropriate design for this area."