Anoka County has hired a consultant for design and permitting work on a project to reconstruct the intersection of Bunker Lake Boulevard (County State Aid Highway 116) and Trunk Highway 47 at the border of Anoka and Ramsey.

On the recommendation of its Transportation Committee, the Anoka County Board Aug. 27 approved a purchase of service contract with WSB Engineering, one of three consulting firms that responded to a request for proposal, in the amount of $364,789.21.

Improvements proposed include the addition of dual left-turn lanes on Highway 47 for both northbound and southbound directions, modifications to the existing Rum River oxbow bridge to accommodate a longer right-turn lane for westbound Bunker Lake Boulevard to northbound Highway 47, completing trail and sidewalk connections that do not exist today, and American with Disability Act improvements.

The project is planned to be constructed and completed in 2021 before work on Highway 10 between West Main Street and Thurston Avenue in Anoka starts in 2022, with completion in 2023. This includes grade separations at Fairoak and Thurston avenues.

“Bunker Lake Boulevard currently acts as a reliever for Highway 10 traffic, and more traffic will use the road when the Highway 10 projects are under construction,” said Doug Fischer, county highway engineer and transportation division manager.

The project will add capacity at the intersection, which is already congested during rush hours, not only from Highway 10 traffic, but also because of its proximity to Anoka High School at the nearby Bunker Lake Boulevard/Seventh Avenue intersection, according to Fischer.

Not only will there be additional turn lanes, but the bridge over the Rum River oxbow bend will be widened so that a turn lane can be expanded, Fischer said.

New traffic signal installation will also take place at the intersection, he said.

“The project will make the intersection operate more effectively and reduce backups,” Fischer said.

The county has received a $1.9 million federal grant for the project, which would pay 74% of the total cost, he said.

But plans are to shift those federal dollars to another county project — the railroad grade separation and realignment on Foley Boulevard between Coon Rapids Boulevard and East River Road in Coon Rapids scheduled to start in 2021 and be completed in 2022 — so the intersection work can be fast-tracked, according to Fischer.

Going through the steps required with the federal grant award would delay the project to 2022; without the federal process the project can be done in 2021, Fischer said.

To make the switch, the county is currently going through the required approvals from the Metropolitan Council, which authorized the federal grant, he said.

Instead of the federal money, the county will use a portion of its annual state aid allocation received from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, as well as transportation tax dollars, Fischer said.

The County Board put in place the transportation tax in October 2017 following the dissolution of CTIB (Counties Transit Improvement Board), which previously paid a portion of Northstar Commuter Rail operating costs through a transit tax. The tax comprises a 25 cent transit sales and use tax plus a $20 vehicle excise tax, the same as the former CTIB taxes.

“This will be a wonderful improvement,” Commissioner Matt Look said.

This project will be an important “safety valve” during the Highway 10 projects at Fairoak and Thurston avenues as well as MnDOT’s proposed improvements on the Highway 10 bridge over the Rum River and the Ferry Street interchange, which also have a 2022 start date, according to Commissioner Scott Schulte, County Board chairperson.

It is also why the county will be lobbying the 2020 Minnesota Legislature for money in the state bonding bill to construct a third lane in each direction on Highway 10 between Hanson and Round Lake boulevards in Coon Rapids, Schulte said.

In July, the County Board’s Transportation Committee directed highway department staff to prepare and send out requests for proposals to consulting engineering firms for preliminary engineering and environmental documentation work on the add-a-lane project.

Expanding this portion of Highway 10 prior to the start of the Anoka projects will make it easier for motorists to exit Main Street and Round Lake Boulevard before they encounter the construction congestion, according to Fischer.

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