Anoka County will begin work on an overpass and other construction on Foley Boulevard in Coon Rapids this summer. The project is expected to last until fall of 2022 — but drivers don’t need to worry about detours.
Foley Boulevard between East River Road and Coon Rapids Boulevard is in need of reconstruction, as well as an overpass to separate the road from the railroad tracks, engineering program manager Jason Orcutt said.
“Currently there is a great deal of delay in the area with the number of trains that go through and the amount of time it takes,” Orcutt said.
Separating the roadway from the trains not only improves traffic flow, County Commissioner Scott Schulte said, but it also improves safety by reducing risk for train-car collisions and helping public safety vehicles get through the intersection quicker.
“If they’re going to a call and can zip right over the top of the rail — even if a car’s going by — they can get to their destination faster, be it for a heart attack or any medical issue or any public safety issue, for that matter,” Schulte said.
The approximately $24 million project includes street reconstruction, a multiuse trail, an overpass at the Burlington Northern Railroad track and replacement of the four-lane undivided highway with a four-lane divided roadway with turn lanes. The project will stretch from East River Road to Coon Rapids Boulevard.
“We saw a need, and we saw an opportunity to make a safety improvement,” Orcutt said. “So I think overall it will clearly increase safety, as well as mobility, in the area.”
This project is somewhat similar to the construction done on Hanson Boulevard in 2019, Schulte said.
A major difference between the two projects is drivers should be able to access Foley Boulevard throughout construction, Schulte said. Hanson was shut down completely.
In this case, the overpass is changing alignment, so the bridge can be easily completed while traffic is still on the roadway.
This year, most of the project will be done off the road, so pedestrians and motorists should be able to use the road like normal. Next year, traffic will likely experience some delays, but the road will still be accessible, Orcutt said.
One goal of the project is to make it easier for drivers to turn left from Foley between East River Road and Coon Rapids Boulevard.
“We’ve all been in a turn lane when you want to turn left, but the through traffic is so far back, you can’t get into the left-turn lane,” Orcutt said.
To help ease that issue in the area, the county will add an additional left-turn lane on Foley to access southbound Coon Rapids Boulevard.
Schulte said the general response has been positive.
“People are excited that Anoka County has prioritized public safety and automobile safety,” Schulte said. “It’s been our priority for a long time, and we’re now doing that with money and getting these overpasses built on the rail lines.”