Like many who live in Richfield, Russ Olson takes 66th Street every day. The artery, which stretches across the city and connects to major highways, is the route he uses to get to work at the airport.
In less than two weeks, crews will begin work on a multiyear reconstruction of the 66th Street corridor. For Olson, who learned of the project when it was announced in 2013, it’s welcome news about a street due for an upgrade.
“You have to suck it up for awhile,” Olson said about the construction. “It’s like anything else in life.”
The $37 million construction project, led by Hennepin County with coordination from the city, will redevelop the street from Richfield’s west to east borders. The project will be paid for with federal highway funds and county and city funds.
Construction from Xerxes to Humboldt avenues is to begin on March 27.
“It’s a construction zone and it’ll be slow to get through, so people need to be patient and plan ahead,” said Mike Petersen, a project engineer for the city.
The project aims for a total overhaul. Crews will repave the deteriorating roadway, replace utilities, address drainage and stormwater concerns and add roundabouts at Nicollet and Lyndale avenues.
Several pedestrian improvements also are planned, including bicycle lanes, renovated sidewalks and boulevards that separate people from vehicles.
Crews will keep one lane of traffic going in each direction and one pedestrian route open during most of the construction, project engineer Kyle Johnson said. The street may also be blocked for one or two blocks at times.
Drivers who use 66th Street to commute are encouraged to get on Crosstown Hwy. 62 or use other local access roads. Metro Transit will reroute buses throughout the project.
“If you’re trying to be efficient ... it’s better to take the highway detour route,” said Colin Cox with Hennepin County, adding that crews are hoping to keep 66th Street as open as possible “to make sure people can get to these businesses.”
Residents and business owners attended an open house Wednesday at the Richfield Municipal Center to learn more. Rich Trautner said he was happy to hear about the pedestrian improvements, as currently “cars are going right by your head.”
Business owners were concerned that construction will keep customers away.
“It seems like it could be a very deep, impacting project,” said Ned Zarecky, who runs a car wash. “The duration is very concerning.”
Yet Zarecky said he understands the street upgrade was necessary. “From what I’m hearing, the infrastructure is basically crumbling,” he said.