Green light given to Highway 3 project


The Inver Grove Heights City Council granted municipal consent Sept. 28 to a reconstruction project on Highway 3 that will run from Highway 149 to Ann Marie Trail, and Highway 149 from Highway 3 to Rich Valley Boulevard, which is also County Road 71. submitted graphic

The project will include the realignment of the intersection at Rich Valley Boulevard and Highway 3. It will combine the southern legs into a single leg, making the roadway more perpendicular to Highway 3 and adding dedicated turn lanes. submitted graphic

Inver Grove Heights grants municipal consent after delay.

 

After continuing the public hearing that began in July, the Inver Grove Heights City Council granted municipal consent for a Highway 3 reconstruction project on Sept. 28. 

The $5.2 million project will run from Highway 149 to Ann Marie Trail, and realign and improve the intersection of Highway 3 and Rich Valley Boulevard. Work is scheduled to begin next summer.

The council voted 4-1 to grant municipal consent, with council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech as the lone dissenter.

Scott Thureen, public works director, said that following testimony from residents at the July 24 meeting, the council decided to keep the hearing open. This was done to give residents time to talk to Minnesota Department of Transportation staff about their concerns, which centered on the intersection realignment.

Had the council denied municipal consent, the project would have become a simple mill-and-overlay project, rather than a reconstruction. 

 

The project

Molly Kline, an area engineer for MnDOT, said the project will include adding a bypass lane at 93rd Street for southbound Highwwy 3. Work will also include drainage and shoulder improvements.

At the Sept. 28 meeting, Kline said MnDOT was looking for an answer regarding municipal consent that night.

“This project is looking to line up with two additional projects on Highway 3, which also require a closure of 3, and delaying this project would just extend the amount of duration of a closure on 3,” she said. 

Kline said a memo was given to Thureen on Aug. 3 that went over the comments received at the July 24 public hearing. 

Concerns from a resident who lives on Rich Valley Boulevard included tree removal and impacting the property with headlights from the intersection realignment. Kline said MnDOT ran some calculations and it appears there would be adequate space between the range of headlights and the home. 

Part of the safety improvement for the project will include removing trees to improve sightline. 

Kline said MnDOT could work more with that homeowner during the negotiations process, which is done once municipal consent is given.  

Piekarski Krech said she doesn’t think MnDOT is working in the best interest of property owners, and was skeptical it would take care of all their concerns.

“You can say this will be taken care of in negotiations but we all know how negotiations go,” she said.

 

Public hearing continues 

Dave Rudd owns a property on Rich Valley Boulevard. He said his property is 500 to 600 feet off the intersection and he gets headlights in his front windows all the time. He added he hasn’t seen any plans for changes in speed limits around the intersection.

“I don’t know what the plans were to fix the speed limit but that is the problem,” Rudd said. 

He said if money is going to be spent on the project, it needs to be done right.

The current intersection of Highway 3 and Rich Valley Boulevard has multiple conflict points — the roadways come together and form a triangular non-roadway space in the middle.

Julie Groetsch lives on the west side of Highway 149. She said she has driven through the intersection many times. 

“I find that intersection extremely dangerous,” Groetsch said, adding the screening and sightlines are horrible.

Joe Hamlin spoke at a previous public hearing session. He said he did get a response from MnDOT in August. One of his concerns that was addressed was headlights from the realignment. 

While he understands the safety concerns, he is still worried that with the realignment of Rich Valley Boulevard there will be headlights pointing directly at his house, causing a glare.

He said he’s worried trees are going to taken out, getting rid of his buffer to the intersection. He asked for a new buffer to be put in as part of the project landscaping.

Kline said if MnDOT were to replace the trees by replanting, it would need to own the property the trees were being placed on, which would increase the property it takes from property owners.

 

What about a roundabout?

Grant Pylkas said he has crossed the Rich Valley Boulevard intersection every day for the past 37 years. 

He asked if a roundabout had been discussed. He said it would slow down traffic and eliminate issues with left turns.

Mayor George Tourville said it had been looked at by MnDOT, but was denied — Kline said the impacts and cost were higher than the perceived benefits of a roundabout. 

The roundabout, or any of the alternatives MnDOT looked at, had greater impacts on property owners than the approved realignment plan.

The estimated cost of the realignment is roughly $350,000, while a roundabout would cost more than $3 million, not including right-away acquisitions.

Despite the fact that roundabouts can be controversial with drivers and residents, Tourville said it could work well at the intersection.

“Love them or hate them, roundabouts do slow traffic down. If the idea is to slow traffic down, a roundabout would do that well,” he said.

Council member Paul Hark said that while a roundabout wasn’t feasible at the Rich Valley Boulevard intersection, work to improve it is necessary.

“Something has to be done at that intersection. When my son learned to drive we called it the suicide intersection, because it’s absolutely crazy there,” he said. 

Piekarski Krech said the only thing that is getting improved with the current plan is the sightline. She doesn’t know if safety is being increased. 

Tourville said at least with a realignment, the intersection will be a little bit safer. 

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com



 

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