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APWA-MN Project Spotlight: Safety consideration for street reconfigurations in front of the National Sports Center in Blaine

October 8, 2019

APWA-MN Project Spotlight: Safety consideration for street reconfigurations...

Project Title: Blaine - 105th Ave. NE Reconstruct (TH 65 to CSAH 52)

Owner: City of Blaine
Design Firm: WSB
Contractor: North Pine Aggregate, Inc.
The 105th Avenue NE project involved the reconstruction of 105th Avenue NE from TH 65 at the west end to CSAH 52 (Radisson Road) on the east end. 105th Avenue NE, previously an Anoka County roadway, was turned back to the City of Blaine prior to the redesign of the roadway in 2015. The urban roadway was a five-lane undivided roadway that was in need of reconstruction due to failing pavement. Beyond simply reconstructing the pavement, the city had numerous concerns regarding driver and vehicle safety due to high speeds. The wide roadway gave drivers a sense of openness, which led to speeds well above the posted speed limit of 50 mph. This avenue runs directly through the National Sports Center (NSC) campus, home to multiple events throughout the year that attracts thousands of pedestrians. The Schwan's USA Cup, held every July brings over 10,000 soccer participants and spectators to the campus. Fields are located on the north and south sides of 105th Avenue creating heavy pedestrian traffic. Creating at-grade pedestrian crossings was vital to allow for safe crossing for both pedestrians and cars. 
During the project planning process, the city’s main concern was managing vehicle speeds to ensure pedestrian safety. The city studied options that would allow pedestrians to cross the road safely while being cost-effective and useful. The City evaluated the use of signal systems at the main NSC entrances to reduce high-speed traffic; however, this option would result in increased maintenance costs and would not always reduce vehicle speeds. The city also evaluated a roundabout option at the two main facility entrances. The roundabouts would force drivers to significantly reduce speeds at the intersections and adding narrowed lanes and raised medians would also resolve high speeds along the roadway. The city felt the roundabouts served their goals better and opted to move forward with this option.

Prior to the project, 105th did not have any pedestrian facilities along the roadway and only contained marked crosswalks at two intersections. To accommodate the large volume of pedestrians that would be present during NSC events, the city added a trail and walkway on either side of 105th with crosswalks at the roundabouts that were twice the required width.

The project was bid in the summer of 2016. Construction began in August of 2016 and was substantially completed on schedule in July 2017. Reconstruction of this roadway was planned carefully around several significant events at the National Sports Center, the largest was the Schwan's USA Cup soccer event. The contract was written so construction could not begin until mid-to-late July, after the event concluded, and must be completed the following year prior to the event in early July. This created a challenging timeline for the contractor. Additionally, several other large events throughout the duration of construction required the construction team to revise traffic control and construction staging to allow for heavy vehicle use of the corridor while it was under construction. Throughout construction, the city indicated that they received few complaints from the traveling public – a large accomplishment due to the large number of travelers that used the road during construction. 

During the design phases of the project, the city indicated that they envisioned this roadway as the gateway to the City of Blaine. The National Sports Center is the most visited attraction in the city and this roadway runs directly through the facility. The old roadway was in poor condition and was not aesthetically pleasing. The city had a vision to create a safer and more beautiful roadway. The design successfully helped them accomplish their vision while also reducing speeds by 10 miles-per-hour with a posted speed limit of 40 miles-per-hour on the roadway near the roundabouts. New areas now allowed for landscaping elements that were not possible prior to construction. The city had landscaping elements and lighting installed throughout the corridor, transforming the roadway into a very appealing corridor. 

Today, there are many sites along the corridor that are now planning redevelopment which will benefit the city's economy and make the corridor even more appealing, and a destination in the north suburbs.

Oct. 9, 2019

Article submitted by Riley Dvorak, APWA-MN Communications Committee

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