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.
Interest is picking up along 101
Combined with substantial improvements north of the river to the tune of another $20 million, including a safer roundabout in place of the Y intersection, Chanhassen is seeing an awakening of interest in development along 101, Oehme said. The connecting stretches increase lane space from two to four.
“All of 101, not just this stretch, is our city’s No. 1 transportation priority,” Oehme added; it’s not just Scott County’s quest for more lane space for its vital connection to job centers north of the river.
Normally, Chanhassen is much more restrictive on working hours for projects like this, with evening cutoffs of 6 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. Saturdays. But, offered the promise of completion of a complex project by fall 2015 with aggressive hours, the request sailed through as a mere consent item on the council agenda.
Shakopee allowed later heavy-duty work than that, but part of the request to both cities is to permit some work to be carried out even after 10 p.m.
In Shakopee, Whiting’s attempt to shave off the cutoff time for pile driving and the like to 9 p.m. instead of 10 died for lack of a second.
“Let’s get this project done,” council member Matt Lehman told colleagues.