A popular road that connects Lake Minnetonka communities is finally slated to reopen to traffic.
Crews are planning to reopen this week a big stretch of Bushaway Road, part of County Road 101 — wrapping up two years of road closures for more than 11,000 motorists a day who use the winding lake road.
Since May, the county has closed a nearly 2-mile stretch of the road to through traffic between Minnetonka Boulevard (County Road 5) and McGinty Road near Grays Bay. That stretch is scheduled to reopen Friday, and a new bridge over the BNSF railroad tracks is slated to open Nov. 1.
The tree-lined road is considered the eastern gateway to Lake Minnetonka and a local scenic byway.
"We are excited to reopen this important link between Minnetonka, Woodland and Wayzata," Hennepin County project engineer Dan Allmaras said via e-mail.
Crews have repaved and widened the century-old road from Minnetonka to Wayzata as well as added turn lanes and new sewers, installed a bike and pedestrian trail and replaced what was supposed to be a temporary bridge over the railroad tracks.
The road now will have a more urban feel, with curbs and gutters, buried power lines and landscaping.
"We're all looking forward to the road reopening," Wayzata City Engineer Mike Kelly said. "It's one of the main accesses to town."
When construction began in 2014, county officials said that the large-scale road closures would end in November 2015, and that road work and landscaping would continue into 2016. At the time, the project was estimated to cost $41 million.
But a number of factors — railroad and sewer work, rising material prices, the need to redesign retaining walls along a railroad bridge and a rerouting of the road around American Indian burial mounds — extended the road closures into this fall. The total cost came to $59.6 million, a sum that includes $46.7 million for construction alone.
The county and state together are paying 67 percent of costs, while the Metropolitan Council and the cities of Wayzata, Minnetonka and Woodland are dividing the balance.
Bushaway Road has a long history dating back to the mid-1800s. It's thought to be the first registered road in Minnesota after statehood, and doing any work on it long has been controversial because of its history and the lake, trees and upscale homes around it.
Residents protested reconstruction work by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in the 1980s, then by Hennepin County when the state highway became a county road.
Then last year, bulldozers unearthed burial mounds. Experts had surveyed the land and thought the burial mounds were located 30 to 50 feet east of the construction site. Work was halted immediately and plans were redrawn at the Breezy Point intersection, nixing a roundabout and realigning the road as experts worked to restore the mounds.
It's not clear how old they are, but Minnesota has an estimated 12,000 known mounds, the final resting places of Indians from about 500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., according to the state archaeology office.
Now, as construction winds down, businesses, residents and visitors to the lake will no longer face detours — and will find a revamped roadway.
"It's a new, safer roadway," Kelly said. "It's been a long time coming."