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Two years of construction on Hwy. 10 in Anoka starts Monday

23 March 2022

Two years of motoring misery are ahead for drivers on Hwy. 10 in Anoka as the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city of Anoka begin an overhaul of one of the most congested and crash-prone segments of road in the metro area.

Starting Monday, the highway will be squeezed to one lane in each direction between Thurston Avenue on Anoka’s west side and the Hwy. 47/Ferry Street interchange. The single lane configuration will be extended east to 7th Avenue in early April and remain in place until November and during the entire 2023 construction season. Major traffic snarls are expected, MnDOT warns.

“We have warned people for two years of the impending pain,” Anoka County Board Chair Scott Schulte said during Tuesday’s County Board meeting. “Surgery is about to begin. Use an alternate route if you can.”

The 2.5-mile stretch of highway, which will undergo its first major upgrade in decades, will operate much like a freeway when the $98 million project is complete. Traffic lights at Thurston and Fairoak avenues will be removed and replaced with overpasses and underpasses. Interchanges at Main Street and Greenhaven Road will be rebuilt with roundabouts on both sides of the highway, and the interchange at Hwy. 47/Ferry Street will be redesigned to feature a single traffic light to control all left turns, reducing conflict points and giving motorists green lights more often.

At the same time, MnDOT also will replace the aging Hwy. 10 bridge over the Rum River, realign frontage roads and put in multiple sidewalks and trails to improve pedestrian safety.

“This is a huge project,” MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard said. “The city has been looking forward to this for many years.”

But Cathleen Pennaz, who lives in the construction zone’s epicenter at the interchange of Ferry Street and Hwy. 10, is not. She said she already has lost her internet connection and electricity a few times when crews were doing prep work, and now will lose part of her yard when the main work begins.

On top of that, she fears the project will bring a big increase in noise, dust and traffic for the next two years and beyond.

“I’m dreading it,” said Pennaz, who has lived in her 130-year-old house for the past four years. “It’s going to be awful, a mess.”

Barnard said the project is aimed at smoothing out pavement and expediting travel. Pennaz said it will just bring more traffic, and “it will move faster.”

Traffic on the key route for commerce and vacationers heading to their cabins often moves at a crawl or not at all. Miles-long backups often form during peak periods because of stoplights at Fairoak and Thurston, making it difficult for the 50,000 to 64,000 drivers — more than Interstate 35W carries through Blaine and Lino Lakes — who pass through Anoka each day. Hwy. 10’s more than 100 annual crashes contribute to the slow roll.

When the work is completed, delays in Anoka will be reduced by 75% and crashes by 57%, according to consultant Bolton & Menk.

The prospect of free-flowing traffic is exciting for Peter Turok, president of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, traffic jams have stunted growth in the area, and Anoka has lost some commercial projects because of the condition of the highway, he said.

“Many employers will only interview employees between 10 and 2 because they have lost employees in morning and evening traffic,” Turok said. The highway has not changed in years, and “it has hurt us.”

Because Anoka will resemble a giant cone zone for the next two years, MnDOT recommends drivers simply passing through Anoka use alternate routes such as Interstate 94 and Hwy. 610, and above all avoid cutting through town using neighborhood streets.

Turok concedes that businesses could take a hit because some access points along Hwy. 10 will be closed. He pointed out that many businesses survived when the downtown Anoka bridge was replaced years ago and more recently when the Hwy. 169 bridge over the Mississippi River in Champlin was rebuilt. And they will weather this storm, too.

“It’s going to be a pain, no question about it,” Turok said. “If they can get through COVID, they can get through Hwy. 10.”

In the long run, he thinks the project will be “a huge benefit” and will bring residential and commercial growth to northern Anoka County.

The work on Hwy. 10 in Anoka is part of a larger plan to turn the highway into an expressway running from Elk River to Blaine. MnDOT removed traffic lights at Armstrong Boulevard in neighboring Ramsey in 2016 and put in an interchange. Plans are on the drawing board to do the same at Ramsey and Sunfish Lake boulevards.

This summer MnDOT also will begin transforming Hwy. 169 through Elk River into a freeway.

This post was originally published on this site

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