Richfield residents are in for a long stretch of traffic disruptions as work gets started on a major rebuild of 66th Street, the city’s unofficial Main Street.
When the dust settles from the three-year project, city leaders say, residents will have a safer road that welcomes cyclists and pedestrians, as well as a more attractive boulevard.
Metropolitan Council work crews last week began preparing to reline the sewer mains that run underneath 66th Street, and portions of the road will be narrowed to one lane in each direction starting sometime this week.
The work, to be done in three phases, is expected to be completed in May 2017.
Relining the sewers, which date from the 1950s, is cheaper and less disruptive than replacing them, said Tim O’Donnell, a Met Council spokesman. Aboveground pipes will run down the center of 66th Street to carry sewage as each section of underground pipe is relined with a special fabric infused with hardening resin.
The Met Council operates the regional sewer lines, which collect waste from local cities and send it to the massive regional treatment plant in St. Paul.
Once the sewers are relined, Hennepin County will begin remaking the narrow four-lane roadway into a wider, bike- and pedestrian-friendly street.
The $37 million project will rebuild more than 3 miles of the street from near the airport to the Southdale area. Actual road construction is expected to begin in mid-2017 and finish in 2019.
Currently, 66th Street carries about 20,000 vehicles a day, far more than it was designed to handle. Not only are there are no bike lanes or turn lanes, sidewalks directly abut the roadway, forcing pedestrians “to walk with their elbows in traffic,” as one city official put it.
The reconstruction plan was passed by the City Council in 2014 after it won approval from a citizen transportation commission as well as the city’s public works and engineering staffs. It will widen the road to allow for bike lanes, turn lanes and sidewalks separated from the road by boulevards. Roundabouts will be built at the intersections of Nicollet and Lyndale avenues.
Some homes are so close to the street that 18 of them will be demolished to provide the necessary right of way.
Richfield doesn’t have responsibility for either the sewers or road construction, but city officials are prepared to field questions about the project from residents, City Engineer Jeff Pearson said.
The multiple agencies involved “can get kind of confusing for people,” Pearson said. “If I’m Joe Public and there’s a road project in the city, I’m going to call the city. The general public doesn’t care who’s doing the project, they just care about the work.”
The Met Council has a project hot line at 612-888-9798. The city has complete project information at www.richfieldsweetstreets.org.