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A12-0961 State v. Hellervik, LLC (Ramsey County)

County OKs more money for 66th Street project

The planned 66th Street reconstruction in Richfield is going up in price, as Hennepin County faces higher property-acquisition costs to help make the street more accommodating for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The County Board this week approved a $7 million budget increase for right-of-way acquisition related to the project, which will replace utilities and rebuild 66th Street — also known as County Road 53 — from 16th Avenue to Xerxes Avenue.

The estimated total project cost now stands at $51.9 million, including consulting fees and right-of-way. Right-of-way costs nearly tripled from $4 million to $11 million to allow for a “complete streets” design.

Funding for the increased county share is available in the county’s State Aid account, according to county documents.

County documents said the higher costs stem from project layouts that include a widened boulevard to accommodate snow storage, landscaping and “off-road protected bike lanes.”

Jim Grube, Hennepin County’s director of transportation and county engineer, said the design is consistent with the county’s “complete streets” policy, which considers the needs of all road users, not just cars.

At present, the sidewalks are right up against the curb, with no boulevard between the pedestrians and traffic on the street, a main corridor in Richfield used by 12,000 to 22,000 vehicles per day.

Pedestrians are “literally just a couple of feet away from people driving along the road,” Grube said in an interview. “It doesn’t feel safe.”

Richfield’s City Council approved the design last year. Project funding sources include the county, city and federal government.

The project includes road reconstruction, roundabouts at Lyndale and Nicollet avenues, new city-owned water main and sanitary sewers, and landscaped boulevards with bike facilities, according to the county.

Jeff Pearson, Richfield’s transportation engineer, said the plans call for “hybrid” roundabouts, with one lane in each direction on Lyndale and Nicollet avenues, and two lanes for traffic on 66th Street.

An existing roundabout at 66th Street and Portland Avenue has two lanes in all directions.

As for the utilities, they’re the same age as the road, “so they are 50-plus years old,” Pearson said. “You don’t want to have to rip up a new road to fix stuff like that.”

The project is in still in design, and right-of-way needs to be secured by next year. Major construction is scheduled for 2017 and 2018, with some “follow-up work” in 2019, Pearson said.

The project requires the removal of 18 homes between Penn Avenue and Interstate 35W. Last December, Pearson said property owners will be offered fair market value plus relocation expenses.

Grube said the county has had good negotiations with a number of the affected property owners.

Besides the right-of-way costs, the County Board approved another $600,000 for consultant services for environmental investigations and other project services. Consultant fees increased from $332,000 to $932,000.

Grube said the project will likely go out for construction bids in the third quarter of 2016.

The newest section of the road was redone in the 1980s. That section, between Penn and Xerxes avenues, was built as a concrete road and overlaid with bituminous a number of times, Pearson said last December.

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