Planning a trip to the state capitol for Tuesdays at the Capitol or a rally organized by an advocacy group? Or do you travel University Avenue or use the Washington Avenue Bridge to get to and from home, work, shopping or school? Getting around parts of St. Paul and Minneapolis got trickier due to Central Corridor light rail construction, so getting around will take more planning while this massive construction is underway. It will mean months of disruption for area businesses, home owners, motorists and transit riders.
“We’re going to all have to co-exist to get around,” said Dan Soler, project engineer for Metropolitan Council. Utility work already underway along University has caused minor traffic tie-ups in recent weeks. The start of what is referred to as “heavy construction” will bring many more changes. “We’ve been doing a lot of work to get ready for a very big and very impactful 2011 construction season,” Soler said.
The intent is to keep University Avenue open at all times for traffic, with one lane of through traffic in each direction. Traffic will be in two lanes on one-half of the street. Traffic will be on the north side during the first phases on construction. Project staff will provide notification prior to shifting traffic lanes.
Soler said there will need to be continued coordination between Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), St. Paul, Minneapolis and Hennepin and Ramsey counties to help motorists get around. “We don’t wasn’t to send someone on a detour and then have them drive right into someone else’s project.”
If you are a Route 16, 21 or 50 bus rider along University, be aware that several regular stops will be eliminated during this construction season. That includes stops at Albert, Pascal, Simpson, which serve the Midway shopping area. Stops that remain in place during construction may be relocated at times to accommodate construction. Stops will be temporarily modified to provide access for riders with disabilities. Also, be aware that bus schedules are changing to allow more time due to construction-related delays.
If you drive or ride in a private vehicle during construction, look for more changes. At the start of construction, parking changes will take place along University Ave. All on-street parking will be eliminated. Two-hour parking time limits take effect on most side streets.
The work will start on the south side of University at Emerald and continue eastward in approximately one-mile sections to just east of Hamline. Two-third of the first stretch of University will be under construction for a time.
The next phases of construction will take place in from March into July between Emerald and Hampden, with work starting in mid-March between Hampden and Aldine. By June work should be shifted to the north side of University Ave between Emerald and Hampden, with completion in October. Work between Hampden and Aldine is to take place from July into November.
Between Aldine and Hamline, the south side of University will be under construction from April into August, with the north side work starting in July and ending in November. The goal is to get three miles of street ready for light rail by late fall. Schedules are tentative due to weather.
Traffic control measures, including barricades, signs, temporary traffic signals and temporary access will be installed. Left turn lanes across University will be restricted to 11 signalized intersections.
Each section of street is to be under construction for up to 150 days, according to construction contracts. The street lanes and sidewalks on side have to be restored before work can begin on the other side.
The intent is to maintain vehicle and pedestrian access to all properties. Project outreach staff members have spent several months contracting businesses and meeting with owners to discuss access and how it will be provided when construction is going out outside the front door.
At least four feet of front sidewalk is to be maintained except when the new sidewalk is installed in front of a property. Sidewalks are to be replaced in 15 days. Properties may have to have temporary sidewalks and ramps.
Work in the one-mile sections will shift to the north side of University only after the new road and sidewalks are built and reopened on the south. The final piece of construction in each segment of the line is that of installing the track, guideway and station platform foundations.
While the street is under construction, public and private utilities will be relocated, including storm and sanitary sewers, electrical lines, phone and other communications system lines.
Metro Transit began posting signs and distributing information on the changes earlier this year. Changed schedules are online at www.metrotransit.org or by calling 612-373-3333. Check Central Corridor work at www.centralcorridor.org