Not the news you want to see in a summer of relentless road construction: Just wait till next year.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will shut down part of Hwy. 169 in the west metro for as long as a year. The saving grace is that the closure of the Nine Mile Creek bridge won't take place until the current construction projects on Hwy. 100 and Interstate 494 are completed.
The agency will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hopkins Center for the Arts to share information about the $72 million to $87 million project that calls for the highway to be closed in both directions between Bren Road and S. 7th Street. MnDOT is replacing both sides of the Nine Mile Creek bridge, a 3,000-foot expanse over marshland. The bridge will be closed from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017, said agency spokesman Nick Carpenter.
Drivers also will see periodic lane closures between Hwy. 55 in Golden Valley and Crosstown Hwy. 62 in Edina as MnDOT resurfaces the highway and tackles other maintenance projects and upgrades.
The condition of the Nine Mile Creek Bridge is bad enough that MnDOT's Bridge Office recommended that it be replaced by 2020. The agency has opted for a full-year closure rather than rebuilding one side of the bridge and then the other, Carpenter said.
"A full replacement of the bridge is a significant undertaking," he said. "Consolidating all the Hwy. 169 improvement projects will reduce construction impacts from three years to one year."
Carpenter says the Hwy. 169 work is "expected to cause major traffic impacts." But doing everything in one year in a fixed work zone and not switching traffic from one side of the bridge to the other, like the Bloomington Ferry Bridge project a couple of years ago, will minimize confusion for drivers. It also will improve construction quality and significantly reduce the risk to motorists and workers in the work zone, he said.
The agency also wants to finish work on Hwy. 169 before it tackles rebuilding and upgrading I-35W in Minneapolis in the area of Lake Street, which is scheduled for 2018.
Specifically, here is the plan:
• Replace the bridge over Nine Mile Creek and marshland in Edina, Hopkins and Minnetonka.
• Close the substandard ramps on the west side of Hwy. 169 at W. 16th Street.
• Reconfigure the entrance and exit ramps at Cedar Lake Road.
• Repair the pavement between Hwy. 55 and the Crosstown.
• Repair noise walls and replace a concrete barrier.
This summer has been tough for west-metro drivers, with lane reductions and closures at times on Hwy. 100 and I-394 in St. Louis Park and Golden Valley, and on I-494 through Plymouth and Maple Grove.