Director of St. Croix River Crossing Project Says He Will Work to Resolve Issues With Oak Park Heights
“I am realizing more and more the significant hardship this project poses,” Jon Chiglo told the Oak Park Heights City Council. “I look forward to find ways to mitigate those concerns for you as a city and work as a partner to solve those problems."
The director of the St. Croix River Crossing Project on Tuesday night told the Oak Park Heights City Council that he hopes to expeditiously resolve the concerns the city has expressed relating to the new bridge.
After about two weeks on the job, St. Croix River Crossing Project Director Jon Chiglo said Tuesday night was his first opportunity to come and listen to the concerns of Oak Park Heights.
Since the president approved an exemption for the river crossing from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, city officials have expressed several concerns about the project; and therefore, Oak Park Heights has not yet granted MnDOT municipal consent.
While MnDOT continues to say the issues will be worked out, there has been some contention.
The biggest disagreement between the two entities is the relocation of utilities on the stretch of Highway 36 between Oakgreen and Osgood avenues.
Currently, MnDOT’s plan does not include the replacement of utilities on that stretch of highway. The four scenarios being discussed—and its cost impact on the city—are laid out on page 37 of this report.
Utility relocation along Highway 36 is estimated to cost about $20 million, according to the Oak Park Heights resolution. The project could increase the city’s property tax an extra $400-500 a year for the next 10 years.
Other issues yet to be worked out include the cost of traffic signals, frontage roads along Highway 36, drainage ponds and trails.
As the project’s director, Chiglo said he has “full authority” to negotiate on behalf of the state—and he is willing to collaborate with the city to resolve those issues in “an expedited manner” so the project can move forward into the construction phase.
“We realize, and I am realizing, more and more the significant hardship this project poses,” Chiglo said. “I look forward to find ways to mitigate those concerns for you as a city and work as a partner to solve those problems, so we can minimize your cost of the project, obviously advance the project and eliminate the traffic and congestion concerns that the residents and the businesses have.”
Assigning a division director to manage a project is “unprecedented,” Chiglo said. “I think that emanates the high degree of priority we are placing on this project as a department—a high degree of attention I don’t believe we’ve ever addressed on a project before.”
Sending a Letter to Lohmer
Given statements Rep. Kathy Lohmer made to KARE 11 indicating that she didn’t understand where the $20 million figure came from, Oak Park Heights Mayor Dave Beaudet also brought about a motion suggesting the council send her a letter highlighting the basics of the cost impact study.
The mayor’s recommendation was based on comments Lohmer made to KARE 11 following a news conference on Friday:
"I don't really know where they came up with that 20 million dollar number. The DOT came up with something closer to a million."
Councilmember Les Abrahamson said he has since had a discussion with Lohmer and she clarified that she understands the study.
“But I was also confused by the comment she had made,” Abrahamson said.
That motion unanimously passed.
Under a budget item that will be proposed to a House committee today (March 28), the state of Minnesota would make a $1 million down payment to Oak Park Heights to offset the city's costs associated with the new St. Croix River River Crossing.
House Capital Investment Committee Chairman Larry Howes, (R-Walker), told the Pioneer Press on Tuesday that he will offer amendment to his $280 million bonding bill in the House Ways and Means Committee.