The Broadway Corridor mega-project is running a few weeks ahead of pace and is nearing a late-August completion, but its side effects are still playing out.
The Forest Lake City Council will continue to mull whether to re-connect a block of an informal roadway that was taken out as part of the three-year improvement concerning the city’s main east-west thoroughfare.
The removal of a gravel road on NW 8th Street from 1st Avenue to 2nd Avenue has drawn the ire of several council members. The segment was removed in the early phases of the Broadway project in order to create a retention pond necessary for the treatment of stormwater.
As a result, a side route that enabled drivers to bypass Broadway Avenue was eliminated. What was once a one-block shortcut would take on a larger role if reconnected, as a median blocks eastbound traffic from turning north from Broadway onto 7th Street.
Council members recently asked Washington County engineer Wayne Sandberg to inform them of the decision’s origin, as they feel it was significant enough to have required council input. Sandberg explained at Monday’s council meeting that the elimination of the segment dates to a 2010 county meeting of the Broadway project management team.
He also noted that the overall project consists of over 700 pages of plans and feels that it is not feasible to directly inform the council of each detail.
“What your internal process is is outside of the county’s jurisdiction or even interest,” he said. “We take direction from the city engineer on these projects. The city engineer did provide direction at the time. With the engineer was the city administrator and the mayor concurring with that direction at the meeting.”
City Administrator Aaron Parrish, who was not the administrator in 2010, agreed with Sandberg that the county was duly authorized to remove the roadway.
“It’s pretty clear based on documentation that there was not any formal approval on the part of the council but it is pretty clear that agents of the city did make the representation to have the project take the direction that it ultimately did take,” he said. “…We have some internal reconciliation on how something might have gone that we didn’t really like or care for, but we need to understand that that happened and go forward and do our best to resolve it.”
The council agreed to discuss the matter at a workshop, but not before two of the members made clear their stance.
Council member Susan Young spoke in support of leaving the roadway out.
“It had been a real problem for the people in that area with speed, and the intersection between the residential neighborhood and the park is not a good thoroughfare and cut-through,” she said, noting also that the side route hurts Broadway businesses. “I’ve heard universally from people in that area that this is much better for them.”
Meanwhile, Council member Mike Freer called for the street’s reconstruction.
“There are many people who would use that area in order to get through a back way because they don’t want to go through all of the businesses and all of the traffic,” he said. “Especially now that we put medians in the middle, I think it’s another way of people getting through to where they need to go without having to make a U-turn.”
A 2nd Bump
Sandberg also updated the council on a bump in the road involving the work on Broadway. The Federal Highway Administration, which has full oversight of the project, has ruled that several areas along the sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and the trail that parallels the street must be replaced to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The surface in those areas was found to have a cross-slope of greater than 2 degrees.
Removal and reconstruction will take about 10-14 days, Sandberg said, and will come at no cost to the city.
“There’s some culpability on both the county and the contractor,” he said. “The contractor didn’t build all of them to plan, the county inspectors didn’t catch some of this, so we’re going to work out a cost split between the two outside of the city.”
In other street-related news, Sandberg reported that CenturyLink has taken action regarding a manhole that has been pooling water on SW 11th Avenue. The issue first came up in 2010 when the road was widened so that the manhole sits in the east-bound lane. Drivers often swerve into the oncoming lane to avoid the water.
Being a low-lying area there is no easy fix, Sandberg said, noting previous failed measures. The company recently installed drain tile in a “compromised solution” between the utility and the county.
The idea is to drain the water through a pipe under the street and into the ditch. The measure’s effectiveness will likely not be known until a period of heavy rainfall.