MnDOT begins construction on Highway 36 at English Street


This graphic shows the proposed changes to the Highway 36/English Street intersection and the surrounding area. (submitted graphic)

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is beginning phase one of a $17.3 million improvement project at the intersection of state Highway 36 and English Street in Maplewood.

Commuters who regularly traverse Highway 36 get stuck in big backups at the English Street traffic signal during rush hour, and motorists attempting to enter the highway from English Street frequently complain the lights change too quickly.

The Highway 36/English Street intersection is an ongoing traffic safety concern in Maplewood, said Michael Thompson, the city engineer and public works director.

“This (intersection) has been on our radar for quite some time. It’s in the top 100 intersections on Minnesota trunk highways for crashes,” Thompson explained.

Part of the improvement project requires a 75-day closure of Highway 36 between White Bear Avenue and Highway 61. This closure would occur from mid-June through late August. Additionally, English Street will be closed between Cope and Gervais avenues from late June through late August.

The project will replace the traffic signals with a diamond interchange as well as making improvements to the Highway 61 and County Road B intersection. It also will remove existing access to Highway 36 at Hazelwood and Atlantic streets and replace the Bruce Vento Trail pedestrian and bicycle bridge.

From March through June, MnDOT will construct a retaining wall along Highway 36. From April to May, construction on County Road B and the frontage road will be completed.

The Vento Trail will be temporarily closed between April and mid-June as the newly constructed pedestrian bridge is aligned.

With these changes, Maplewood officials and MnDOT hope to improve safety and efficiency along Highway 36 as well as pedestrian and bike facilities.

Community voices heard

Thompson added that this improvement project has been subject to public input for the past four years.

During the information-gathering process, the neighborhoods south of the highway voted to construct a noise wall on their side, while the north side opted for landscaped berms, which include trees and shrubs to cut the impact of the noise.

“When we talked with the public, residents on the north side had some concerns about putting up a 20-foot noise wall in their front yards. So we formed a berm committee made up of four residents, and they helped design an earthen landscaped berm,” Thompson said.

The city aims to have the project completed in November with project clean-up and remaining maintenance work carrying over into spring 2014.

“We’re on an accelerated schedule with this project. We wanted to minimize the impact to the traveling public and to the local businesses,” Thompson said.

Part of a larger vision

Thompson said this project is part of a larger vision for Highway 36.

“Highway 36 is transitioning to a limited-access highway. This project is really part of that overall vision,” Thompson said.

MnDOT east area manager Adam Josephson explained that this summer, there will be two additional construction projects on the highway, one at Hilton Trail and another building a new St. Croix River bridge.

Those projects will begin construction this spring, however, MnDOT does not expect any closure of Highway 36 for either one.

The Hilton Trail project is similar to the English Street project. It will replace a signalized intersection, located in the community of Pine Springs, with an interchange without signals.

Josephson explained that residents have expressed interest in having all the traffic lights on Highway 36 removed. They’ve grown weary of the traffic tie-ups and collisions at the intersections with signals.

Just two weeks ago there was a fatal crash on Highway 36 at the Manning Avenue traffic light in Lake Elmo. Scandia firefighter John R. Larson, 42, of Marine on St. Croix was legally turning on a green arrow Feb. 28 when a minivan slammed into his car. He died a short time later after surgery.

“We’re looking to get a study underway to see what it would take to remove the signals on 36,” Josephson said. “On the expressway outside of Interstate 694, our main focus is moving traffic.”

For more information about the Highway 36/English Street improvement project, visit http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/hwy36maplewood/.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7814.

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