The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) on Wednesday said it is offering a $500,000 bonus to the contractor building the new Hwy. 169 causeway over the Nine Mile Creek in Edina if workers can get it done and open to traffic by late September.
That’s a month earlier than planned, but it’s a realistic goal: The $64 million project that has had the highway shut down between Bren Road and Lincoln Drive/5th Street for the past eight months is ahead of schedule, said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens.
“The people who live in the communities and use the Hwy. 169 corridor have been extremely patient,” Aeikens said. “They want to see that area open as soon as possible. MnDOT is trying to do just that.”
On Monday, contractor Ames Construction will begin pouring concrete for the new 3,000-foot expanse that passes over marshland. Paving will take about two weeks and is one of the last major tasks to be completed before the highway reopens.
In the short term however, commuters heading to jobs at places such as UnitedHealth, Comcast and Opus Group in Minnetonka will have to endure another disruption.
MnDOT will close the ramps to and from Hwy. 169 and Bren Road for two weeks. The ramps shut down at 9 p.m. Thursday until 5 a.m. Sept. 8. During the closure, motorists will be directed to use Shady Oak Road to Bren Road to access the commercial-industrial area. Crews will be doing concrete work on the highway south of the bridge.
With work progressing rapidly, MnDOT offered the $500,000 incentive to move up the timeline. The money will be paid only if Ames is able to meet the new deadline of having the highway open before Oct. 1.
More than 90,000 motorists who used the Hwy. 169 bridge each day have been displaced since January when the old bridge was demolished and drivers were sent on detours via I-494, Hwy. 100 and I-494. The closure spawned traffic jams and sparked furor in nearby residential areas as Hwy. 169 drivers attempted to skirt around the detour by cutting through neighborhoods. Edina was forced to put up concrete blockades on Dovre Drive to keep rogue motorists out of its Parkwood Knolls neighborhood, which sits on the east side of Hwy. 169 near the Nine Mile Creek bridge. In Hopkins, extra police were deployed to crack down on drivers speeding and rolling through stop signs and help alleviate rush hour backups that developed along Smetana Road and 11th Avenue.
In both cities, MnDOT paid the bill to cover police overtime.
With the end in sight, MnDOT asked the contractor to accelerate the project and open all lanes between the Crosstown and Hwy. 55. With the monetary incentive and if there is good weather, that is likely to happen.
“The motorists, residents and cities are eager to have that open,” Aeikens said.