MnDOT announced a new target date of Spring 2013 to start construction on the St. Croix River Crossing Project—and with that date comes the hope of completing the project by Fall 2016.
The new date means vehicles could start crossing the St. Croix River from Oak Park Heights to Houlton a year sooner than previously anticipated.
It also means a significant cost savings to everyone involved with the project, told the Oak Park Heights City Council Tuesday night.
“Advancing the work and getting those bids in earlier saves in inflationary costs, but that’s just a small piece of why we’re advancing,” Chiglo said after the meeting. "The bigger piece is that we’re ready to start construction and there’s no need to wait. We have the funds. We have the environmental process done. It’s time to move from the design phase of this job into the construction phase and that’s why we’re targeting next spring for starting the approach roadway.”
Those contracts will be awarded by mid- to late-May.
During his presentation to the Oak Park Heights City Council, Chiglo also addressed the issue of municipal consent.
“There has been a lot of discussion about municipal consent and obviously, I think, some confusion,” Chiglo said. “The city provided municipal consent for the project in 1995 and that consent is still applicable to the current project.”
But MnDOT’s position that the city has given municipal consent for the project is one piece that the council will go back and revisit with the city attorney, Councilmember Les Abrahamson said.
“That might be one area where we still have a disagreement,” he said.
In accordance with a district court ruling in 2007, the next step of the process is for MnDOT to submit construction plans for the project to the city.
The city will then have between 60-90 days to hold a public hearing and respond.
“The project is moving forward and there are going to be decisions that have to be made,” MnDOT's East Metro Manager Adam Josephson said after the meeting. “The city has a lot of decisions to make, MnDOT has a lot of decisions to make and we have to work together. Moving into the construction phase, coordination between the city and the state has to be there. That’s the only way it’s going to work for the residents, the businesses, the city and the state.”
In addition to disagreement with regard to municipal consent, .
“Moving forward I am not going to forget the concerns that the city has and I am willing to work very closely with the city and the staff and resolve those issues to your liking—to your comfort level—to protect your interests as well as the state’s,” Chiglo said. “I don’t think we can eliminate all of the cost, but we will work to minimize them to the greatest extent possible.”
The actual cost impact the project may have on residents and business owners has yet to be defined.
The city of Oak Park Heights has said utility relocation could cost upwards of $20 million. MnDOT contends that the work could be done for about $1 million.
“The city has thrown around a high number and MnDOT has thrown around a much lower number and the reality is—after some things are deemed impacted or not—that number could be somewhere in the middle," Abrahamson said. "It’s still up in the air.”
By June 1, there should be a more clear view of what the city and state believe the cost impact range will be, Abrahamson said.
One solution to the cost impact might be for the city to keep the funding it normally contributes to the fiscal disparities program, Abrahamson said.
said Tuesday night that she plans on introducing a bill to the House later this week that would allow the city to keep its contributions to fiscal disparities to pay for its portion of the project.
“If we can do that then funding is not an issue,” Abrahamson said. “If we could keep our own money—and we’re the 12th largest contributor to that fund because of our disproportionate commercial base and power plant—that could be the regional funding this project needs to even out our cost impact.”
Bottom line is that the project is here, Council Member Mark Swenson said.
"We've got all the right things going now. Now is the time for us to come together and make it happen,” he said. “There's no stopping it. As a group, this council needs to really work diligently with MnDOT to get things going in a positive way.
“I’ve been on this council going on 20 years now and we’ve never before had this type of support from MnDOT,” Swenson said. “This is the type of support we need to keep this project moving forward.”
The first in a series of public open houses about the St. Croix River Crossing is tonight, April 11, in Oak Park Heights.
The public is invited to attend an open house to discuss the St. Croix River Crossing Project from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Conference Room at .
A public hearing on the Noise Wall—which will run along the south frontage road from Club Terra to Holiday—will be held April 18 at the Fox Hollow Condos from 5-6:30 p.m.
Other open houses are scheduled for:
Monday, April 23 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at
Tuesday, May 8 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at
Monday, May 21 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at
Open house dates to discuss the project in Bayport and Wisconsin are currently being scheduled.