Eden Prairie plans road work as business expands, adds jobs

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 22, 2012 - 12:08 PM

The city is planning $45 million in road improvements over the next few years to accommodate UnitedHealth Group's expansion.

West Metro residents who drive along Shady Oak Road in Eden Prairie will be zig-zagging through detours and construction cones beginning this fall to accommodate the UnitedHealth Group's expansion to the area.

The road will be reconstructed and widened, with new turn lanes and traffic signals. A roundabout and a new bridge are also on the drawing board.

The $45 million in improvements over the next few years are needed mainly to accommodate extra traffic from an estimated 6,700 additional workers at UnitedHealth Group's future campus in Eden Prairie.

The giant health insurance firm plans to build four new buildings on about 72 acres that it owns, east of Shady Oak Road and between Highways 62 and 212.

The structures will provide 1.5 million square feet of office and represent a $250 million investment, city officials said.

"Over the last 25 years we've had some large projects, but this one has to be near the top in terms of its scale," said Eden Prairie economic development manager David Lindahl.

Previous mega-projects in the city have been built over a decade or more, he said, but UnitedHealth plans to build its new campus in the next four years.

The company broke ground on the first building a few weeks ago, and expects to stagger construction and build about one each year between now and 2016.

The first two buildings will be eight stories high, and will share an adjacent parking ramp with 2,600 stalls, according to plans.

Eden Prairie public works director Robert Ellis said that the improvements along Shady Oak Road are needed because traffic in the area is projected to double by 2030, with about half of it attributed to the company's expansion.

The road project, like the company's office construction, will occur in stages, he said.

The first phase will reconstruct about 3,000 feet of Shady Oak Road just south of Hwy. 62. The road will be widened so that it has two through lanes of traffic in each direction, separated by a median, Ellis said, with turn lanes to enter the campus at two intersections, and a double entry ramp for westbound Hwy. 62.

"All those improvements are needed to accommodate traffic coming to and from their site," Ellis said.

Because of that, he said, the company will pay for 94% of the initial $10.8 million in costs, with the city and county contributing about $700,000 for trails and other amenities.

New bridge

Drivers will see initial work this fall, Ellis said, as city and private utility crews relocate underground water, sewer, gas, electric and cable lines to make way for the wider road. The project will begin in October, he said, with completion expected by November 2013.

A second phase of construction will be more expensive and take longer, Ellis said. There is no specific timetable, but estimates are $31.7 million for additional work sometime between 2014 and 2017 on the rest of Shady Oak Road south to Hwy. 212, with a new bridge likely to be needed across the highway.

Because about 25% of the traffic at that highway interchange would come from UHG, the company has agreed to contribute $8.5 million.

"We are also dedicating 5 acres of the [campus] site to the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail station and setting aside land for conservation, all benefitting the community," said company spokesman Dimitri Senaratna.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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