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Maplewood Addresses Safety, Accessibility in Hway 36 Intersection Upgrade

May 1, 2014

Maplewood Addresses Safety, Accessibility in Hway 36 Intersection Upgrade

By Chadd Larson, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., and Michael Thompson, Maplewood Director of Public Works/City Engineer

A prime route for Twin Cities’ commuters traveling between the metro area’s central and eastern communities, Highway 36 accommodates as many as 50,000 drivers daily.

This vital thoroughfare was originally constructed eight decades ago. Subsequent growth and development introduced traffic congestion, frequent delays, and the need for additional access connections and also produced driver impatience and frustration.

Signalized intersections along the route became increasingly dangerousnearly 150 crashes occurred at the signaled intersection of Highway 36 and English Street in Maplewood alone during a three-year period, creating growing safety concerns.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) envisioned a reconstruction project at the Highway 36/English Street intersection as part of their goal to eliminate all at-grade signalized intersections along Highway 36, and transition the roadway to a limited-access highway to support the St. Croix Crossing project.

A variety of higher priority projects meant that a state-led effort to improve conditions at this Maplewood intersection was slated to remain an unrealized goal for years to come.

Determined to improve safety and general accessibility at this important site, officials with the City of Maplewood reached out to MnDOT in 2008 and offered to take the leadership role in its transformation. With MnDOT on board with the plan, the city went on to secure $7 million in federal funding to kick-start a major $17 million interchange project.                                            

Partnering with MnDOT, Ramsey County, Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority, and the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, the city moved forward with plans to enhance safety and establish efficient movement through the area.

Under the project, signals were removed and a diamond interchange was designed and then constructed with a new bridge on English Street over Highway 36 and a replacement bridge on Bruce Vento Trail over Highway 36. Numerous local roadway improvements and access points also were introduced to improve connectivity for travelers around the interchange, through the area, and to and from local businesses. Utility and storm sewer upgrades were implemented, trails and walkways were added to promote bicycle and pedestrian movements, and the added connectivity bolstered access throughout the community for emergency responders.  

 

Maplewood Fire Chief Steve Lukin is very satisfied with the upgrades.

“The end product greatly enhanced emergency access for our first responders where seconds can make a difference,” Lukin said.

Throughout the process, the City of Maplewood led public involvement activities and generated considerable feedback on community needs and concerns regarding noise, safety, access to businesses, and aesthetics. In fact, the feedback precipitated a significant change in the design of the interchange from an initial split diamond concept to the final standard diamond design.     

Maplewood City Manager Chuck Ahl saw this project as a great example of government agencies working together effectively to meet the needs of citizens.

 “Local residents and commuters are very pleased with the outcome,” he said. “This project truly is the product of strong partnerships at all stakeholder levels.”

To meet the terms associated with receipt of the additional financing needed from a variety of agency sources, the city had to accelerate the final design schedule. The consultant team of Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. and Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. worked closely with the city develop a fast-track design process. The consultant team coordinated closely with MnDOT and other agencies to streamline the project approval process. Construction began in April 2013 and, building on the successful Highway 36 construction project in neighboring North St. Paul, the construction duration of the project was reduced considerably by closing this 1 mile stretch of Highway 36 for 75 days during the summer of 2013. This bold approach significantly shortened the impact of construction, which would ordinarily have lasted over a two-year period. MnDOT led the construction inspection on the project with support from Maplewood staff and the consultant team.

Eric Rustad served as the MnDOT project manager and felt the project was unique but effective in its delivery.

“This project utilized an A + B bidding system so the contractor had to account for closure time and lane rental fees,” he said. “The quicker the contractor could open Highway 36, the more credit they received in the bid selection process.”

Thanks to the city’s initiative and close collaboration with neighborhood working groups, MnDOT, and other agency stakeholders, this important safety and access project was completed in just eight months and will provide benefits for years to come.

For more information about this project, please contact Chadd Larson at chadd.larson@kimley-horn.com or Michael Thompson at michael.thompson@ci.maplewood.mn.us.

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