Mega-land bridge will rise in Shakopee

While solving a huge headache, it could cause short-term pain with night activity.

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The new four-lane roadway crossing the Minnesota River flood plain between Shakopee and Chanhassen will create a dramatic new look in the area.

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It’s the $34 million answer to the increasingly frequent chaos caused by spring floods. Anyone who has ever passed through the area will have been struck by signage showing just how high the floods can reach at their mightiest — it’s well above your car’s roof.

But the solution threatens to bring some headaches of its own. The two-year process of creating the bridge follows an aggressive schedule that calls for crews to work six days a week and late into the night, far beyond what would normally be allowed.

An older Shakopee core already plagued by deafening railroad warning whistles is close to the site. And a council member last month yanked off the routine consent agenda a proposed agreement to let crews work at the site until late in the evening.

“I don’t want to inhibit this anymore than we have to,” Jay Whiting said, “and I know it’s a long process with a lot of headaches and that people will have to pack their patience. But I have a problem with allowing pile drivers to work till 10 p.m. It’s too late to be doing that.”

More than 400 piles will need to be driven deep into solid ground, well below the thick layer of muck, according to a memo prepared for council members in neighboring Chanhassen. More than 70,000 feet of thick piping will be installed.

Chanhassen, with homes on nearby river bluffs, is imposing a long list of rules aimed at minimizing the annoyance factor to neighbors. Among them:

“Tailgates on trucks shall not be slammed. Truck drivers that are unable to control the tailgates from slamming shall be removed from the project.”

The rules were not devised for this project alone, said city engineer Paul Oehme.

“We invoked pretty much the same ones for the Highway 212 project,” he said. That was a major new freeway whose work went on right alongside upscale neighborhoods such as the gated country-club community of Bearpath in Eden Prairie.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation sought special rules for longer hours of work from both Shakopee and Chanhassen in hopes of completing the flood plain construction within a reasonable time.

Leaders cite benefits

The benefits upon completion are multiple, civic leaders stress, for both man and beast.

“We’ve, as a community, struggled with flooding on that stretch for ever so long,” said Angie Whitcomb, president of the Shakopee Chamber of Commerce. “I’m sure construction season will be an interesting challenge, but the end result beats weeks of being closed for flooding.

“When that happens, it’s absolute chaos and gridlock and all the businesses on 101 no longer see that morning or evening drive-by traffic. It makes for a lot of cranky people, and God forbid it also rains or snows because then it’s ‘game over.’ ”

Flooding affects even major businesses such as Mystic Lake Casino, said Bill Rudnicki, tribal administrator for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The tribe helped obtain federal grants for the project, he said, and is covering the $1.5 million cost of adding another exit lane on Hwy. 169 at Canterbury Road to ease congestion, a project set to begin in 2015.

“It benefits everyone,” he said, “if we can make it easier for employees and visitors to access our region.”

The bridge itself is also much better for nature, many agree. A land bridge fragments the habitat, while a bridge suspended in midair allows a free flow.

  • Facts about the bridge project

    Formal title: Southwest Reconnection Project

    Length: 4,226-foot four-lane flood plain bridge to Flying Cloud Drive from river bridge; 3,660 feet of Flying Cloud as well

    Construction timing: Summer 2014 to fall 2015

    Protects from: Road-closing high water that has arrived several times since 1993 after not happening at all during the previous quarter-century

    Muck removal: Over 400,000 cubic yards

    Piles driven deep: 408 for the land bridge alone

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