The Devil's Triangle in Brooklyn Park will finally receive funding for a massive overhaul, but detailed plans for a regional forensic lab in Anoka County and a Northstar light-rail station in Fridley are stalled after the recent trimming of the state bonding bill.
Several transportation and civic projects in the north metro were hoping for a boost from the Legislature this year. But even before the $925 million bonding bill was trimmed to $717 million by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, some of the projects had already been eliminated from the bill. Now, north metro officials say their plans could be altered.
The Devil's Triangle in Brooklyn Park had previously been overlooked by state officials in favor of the Crosstown project. In fact, $35 million of the $50 million for the project was rerouted to the Crosstown in 2006, creating anxious moments for local officials.
The triangle -- where Hwy. 169, Hennepin County Road 81 and 85th Avenue N. intersect -- is ranked among the most dangerous in the state. The plan calls for Hwy. 169 to be routed above the two county roads.
"[State officials] promised us that when they got additional funding, they would fund this road," said Mark Steffenson, mayor of Maple Grove and president of the North Metro Mayors Association. "People in our part of town made sure to remind [state officials] of that promise."
The cost of the project is about $51 million, with Hennepin County and the federal government contributing about $7.5 million each. Brooklyn Park will pay $314,000 for traffic signals and some storm-sewer work. The remaining funding will come from the state.
Bidding for the project starts in June with construction to begin in July.
Anoka County crime lab
Plans for a regional forensic lab in Anoka County are moving forward without complete funding from the state. Services such as fingerprint identification, drug chemistry analysis, and DNA tests could be conducted at the lab, which would serve law enforcement officials from Anoka, Sherburne and Wright counties.
The bonding bill allows for $3 million in state funding toward the proposed crime lab -- only half of the $6 million the county sought. The next move may be the County Board's.
"The budget plan we have is roughly for $20 million plus $6 million from the state, so we've got to respond to what basically is the state's refusal to go along with our plan," said Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart.
The $23 million public safety campus in Andover, the planned location for the lab, is still scheduled for completion in 2010.
"Our response has to be to control costs. Certainly, in a year like this, we want to deal with the project, but we can't increase the price of the building," Erhart said.
Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah added, "We were hoping to get the full $6 million, but we have alternate plans -- things that can be deducted. Those are things that will be taken into careful consideration."
Northstar rail stations
A $10.6 million request for a Northstar commuter light-rail station in Fridley was left out of the bonding bill, but city officials still hope construction can begin on infrastructure for the station by the end of May. Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the rail line, wants to start construction over Memorial Day weekend.
To move ahead with the station, the city needs to purchase land along the tracks. The city is waiting for a court judgment on using eminent domain to purchase the land for about $3.2 million, but expect to hear the decision in coming weeks.
Fridley did succeed with other requests to the state. Approval was given to two plans involving tax-increment financing (TIF) districts -- a tool cities use to pay for current projects by collecting money from future development.
The TIF money could be used to pay for land near the proposed station and infrastructure costs. However, the money will only come out of the planned TIF district if private developers come into the area to build businesses. And the lure of developing in the area is the proposed rail station.
"The station is what is going to generate development in that district," said City Manager Bill Burns. "So which comes first? The station has to be there in order to get that money."
Ramsey city officials are also hoping for a Northstar station, but the project wasn't up for state funding this legislative session. A study of the Ramsey station is being conducted, with the city and the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority splitting the $174,000 cost.
Meanwhile, a groundbreaking is scheduled for the Riverdale station in Coon Rapids next week. The Northstar line is scheduled to open in fall 2009.
Lora Pabst • 612-673-4628 Paul Levy • 612-673-4419