The city of St. Louis Park is still deliberating on what it wants out of potential Highway 100 construction, meaning work will likely be delayed on a project that the state has already pushed back several times.
On Monday night, City Council continued discussion of two main alternatives presented by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Council has with MnDOT because the project was originally slated to begin in 2005. But the state never moved forward, and as funding tightened in the years since, the scope of the project has been reduced.
MnDOT is the agency ultimately responsible for construction on Highway 100, though consent from the city is needed. Without it, a messy appeals process could be triggered, which could further slow down the project and add more costs.
Before consent is granted, council wants to see the state’s proposals tweaked to better suit St. Louis Park residents. For instance, council is supportive of the addition of a small stretch of road that would connect 31st Street with a new frontage road MnDOT is proposing on the west side of the highway near Toledo Avenue. Council also backed a plan that would connect Utica Avenue southbound from Minnetonka Boulevard to Highway 7 via a road off of Highway 100. MnDOT’s current proposals restrict this access.
However, council is still weighing what it wants to see done with the West 27th Street exit off of Highway 100. MnDOT wants it closed, citing safety concerns, but the city is exploring an alternative that would maintain the access in an indirect fashion, sending motorists instead down a side road that would connect with Minnetonka Boulevard. From there, drivers could still access Highway 100.
Councilwoman Sue Sanger said it’s still too early to tell what to do in the area, as the city has not met with residents of the adjacent Birchwood Neighborhood.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to have that conversation,” Sanger said.
The city will be setting up a meeting for sometime in the next month. In the meantime, MnDOT essentially will be in a holding pattern. The department wanted the city’s preferred plan submitted this winter, but that likely won’t happen until sometime in the summer.
Construction is still tentatively planned for 2016. Overall, the project would add passageways to better facilitate access to Highway 100, as well as renovate bridges at Highway 7 and Minnetonka Boulevard, both of which have been deemed "structurally deficient."