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Mn-Dot, city prepare for I-494 project

Officials from the state Department of Transportation provided an update to Woodbury City Council members Jan. 28 on an upcoming construction project that will install concrete and bituminous overlay along I-494 from Lake Road to I-94.

The $40 million improvement project, which is completely state funded, will also add a continuous third lane to that stretch of I-494, said Adam Josephson, a Mn-DOT east metro manager.

The project will take place in two stages beginning in May and again in January 2010.

During the initial project letting, construction crews will rebuild the shoulders for use when the eventual concrete and bituminous overlay takes place. The Century Avenue bridge will be widened during this portion.

Josephson told council members that during the upcoming spring construction any ramp closures will be "fairly short, no more than a week or two."

During the second phase of the project scheduled to begin in January 2010 and officially wrap up in July 2010, ramp closures could be as much as a month or more, Josephson said.

But Josephson added that any ramp closures will be coordinated so that if one ramp along the I-494 stretch is closed, other will be opened.

"If we impact the Tamarack interchange, we're going to try to keep the Lake and Valley Creek interchanges open," Josephson said. "We're going to make every attempt to coordinate those closures so we don't get people boxed in."

Mn-DOT is also planning to add lighting to the area and a noise wall on a stretch along the east side of I-494, but needs municipal approval to do so.

Project needs municipal approval

Mn-DOT held an open house on the project last month at Woodbury City Hall and the dozen or so residents in attendance had no real objections to the noise wall, Josephson said.

"We want to get city input as well as property owner input," he said. "If it ends up that residents simply don't want it, we wouldn't install it."

Mn-DOT began planning for the I-494 improvement project last year after the state Legislature approved a gas tax increase that provided revenue for the project.

"This is a project that was not on our radar screen before," said Josephson said. "But with that funding and the desire of the bill to do pavement and bridge rehab, this was one of two (projects) in the metro area that we were able to identify and move forward with."

Later this month or in March, the city will hold a public hearing on the project, which needs municipal approval.

Woodbury City Council were generally supportive of the project's goals and timeline, but expressed some concern about Mn-DOT's efforts to inform residents of the construction timeline.

Mayor Bill Hargis suggested the city's communications staff continue efforts to inform citizens as more information about the impacts of the project become available.

Josephson said the timing of the July 2010 completion date of the project would coincide with the projected completion of the Wakota Bridge project and a concrete overlay project along I-694, just north of I-94.

Hargis asked Josephson about whether the likelihood of Mn-DOT adding a third lane to I-694 north of I-94 would increase if a federal economic stimulus package was approved.

"The stimulus package is good for certain types of projects, but the quick turnaround is very difficult for projects that add capacity because of the environmental review process you have to go through," Josephson said. "If you don't have a project ready or at least halfway ready (before the stimulus bill is approved) it's pretty hard to get some of those done."