It was a bumpy process, but the new U.S. Post Office sorting facility is now being built in Eagan, and once that is done in 2010, an extension of Denmark Avenue will open, providing another north-south route for drivers who want to avoid busy intersections.

But to get to this point, disagreements had to be worked out between the federal Postal Service, Eagan, and Dakota County officials. The Postal Service, for instance, pulled back its controversial proposal to have a traffic light installed at Lexington Avenue and Gemini Road, but only after Dakota County commissioners objected.

Post Office planners had said the light was necessary to help with the timely movement of Postal Service trucks as part of the $1.2 million project. But Dakota County officials reviewed the studies by the Postal Service and found that the spot not only lacked the criteria required to install a signal, but that a signal there would cause traffic to be delayed at the intersection.

How much? By more than 14,000 hours per year. And beyond that, the county's study projected that with a traffic light there, crashes would nearly quadruple from six per year to 22.

Postal officials dropped the stoplight plan "to get the project going," said Peter Nowacki, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

"It was a sticking point, and we saw it as something we could do to get this project underway," Nowacki said.

The Post Office is moving its sorting operation from its current downtown St. Paul location. Consumers will see little change, Nowacki said. The Eagan post office will remain the same for consumers.

"We will still keep a retail presence in downtown St. Paul, but the actual process of sorting and distributing mail, that's what's going to move to Eagan," he said.

Site preparation began in October, and construction workers have moved about 300,000 cubic yards of dirt. They'll start foundation work later this month, Nowacki said.

The first phase of the new facility, on Lexington Avenue near Lone Oak Road, will be a 448,000-square-foot docking operation, which is to be completed by next December.

The second phase, the processing facility, will be 146,000 square feet, Nowacki said.

"That will have administrative and support areas [and] a business mail entry unit where a bulk mailer could drop off mailings," he said.

The project is slated for completion sometime in 2010, when the new extension, which will complete Denmark Avenue between Northwood Parkway and Clubview Drive, will open. The reason the Denmark extension will be one of the last pieces is to prevent "civilian" traffic coming through the construction site while construction is ongoing, said Tom Garrison, spokesman for the city of Eagan.

That extension will be another way to ease congested intersections in the area. Drivers will be able to take Denmark Avenue from Lone Oak Road south all the way past Yankee Doodle Road and all the way to Deerwood Drive.

"What it means for residents is, again, much more ease of use for local traffic to be able to bypass the heavy, busy intersections within the city," Garrison said.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017