The future of Snelling Avenue looks bright with a new bus rapid transit line, better sidewalks and lighting, and a new driving surface for motorists on the way. But it will take the next three months to make the improvements, which started Monday with the closure of the Snelling Avenue bridge over I-94.
Barricades on the Snelling Avenue bridge went up at midnight Sunday forcing commuters Monday morning onto nearby north-south thoroughfares such as Lexington Avenue and the official MnDOT detour which takes drivers along University Avenue and Marshall Avenue to Cretin Avenue and Vandalia Street. That will be in place until about Aug. 22
Freeway traffic on I-94 was not impacted, but that will change this weekend. Crews will knock down the Snelling bridge deck to put a new one on it. To do that, I-94 will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday between Hwy. 280 and I-35E.
Along with the bridge over I-94, eastbound ramps to and from Snelling closed Monday. Concordia Avenue also closed between Fry Street and Asbury Street. Motorists are able to access eastbound 94 at Lexington Avenue.
Businesses along Concordia and other affected sidestreets remain open. MnDOT is developing maps for businesses to direct customers to their parking lots, said spokeswoman Kirsten Klein.
St. Paul Police said Monday morning went pretty smooth, considering 35,000 to 38,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge. No major traffic snarls developed in the Midway area and there were no reports of drivers cutting through neighborhood streets to bypass the closure.
"It's going to take three to four days for people to get used to it," said Sgt. Paul Paulos.
Paulos said police will keep an eye on the traffic flow and respond if any trouble develops.
MnDOT says it hopes to have the $9.5 million project and the new bridge deck in service in time for the State Fair, which takes place in late August.
The overpass will be redecked as part of a major rebuilding of Snelling north of I-94 to Pierce Butler Route. The bridge is more than 40 years old, but is not being replaced.
"It's more of a maintenance thing," Klein said. "It's kind of like having to reshingle your house. It will extend the life of the bridge."
The project includes constructing station platforms for the new A-Line BRT Line, resurfacing pavement and updating pedestrian crossings to comply with standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The project also calls for replacing some sidewalks, adding decorative street lighting and landscaping medians.
Motorists can expect temporary closures of Snelling Avenue and pedestrians can expect disruptions when sidewalks are replaced, Klein said.