Open house for MnDOT tree removal on February 15

An example of the tree removal plan for Smith Avenue. Trees that are green will remain, other colors indicate reasons for removal.

As MnDOT repaves Smith Avenue and Dodd Road this summer, a large number of trees will be impacted and many will be removed, with the most significant impacts on Smith north of Annapolis.

Most of these trees are being removed because they are in poor health or because of the logisitics involved with reconstruction of sidewalks to bring them into ADA compliance. MnDOT has provided an explainer and detailed maps showing which trees will be removed. In all the agency expects 115 trees to be affected, and will replanting trees in some instances and doing other landscaping in impacted areas.

MnDOT is holding an open house on Thursday, February 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Somerset Elementary to discuss the changes.

The full text of the news release is below.

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The public is invited to learn about upcoming landscaping work along Highway 149 between St. Paul and Mendota Heights at an open house scheduled for Feb. 15.

The event will be held from 6 – 8 p.m. at Somerset Elementary School, 1355 Dodd Rd. in Mendota Heights, Minn. There will be a formal presentation at 6:30 p.m.  

The landscaping and replanting project includes replacing 115 boulevard trees along Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—also known as Highway 149—as well as Annapolis Street.

Open House attendees will have the opportunity to provide input on trees that may be planted as part of the project and learn more about why some trees are schedule to be replaced. Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and project staff will be on hand to answer questions.

The replanting project is part of a larger construction effort on Highway 149 that includes:

  • Reconstructing the deck of the Smith Avenue High Bridge.
  • Resurfacing Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—between West 7th Street in St. Paul and I-494 in Mendota Heights.
  • Improving drainage, sidewalks and pedestrian accessibility.
  • Replacing signals at five Highway 149 intersections.
  • Constructing an additional left turn lane from westbound I-494 to southbound Dodd Road in Mendota Heights.

The project will extend the lifespan of Highway 149 and the High Bridge, provide a smoother road surface and improve pedestrian and bicycle accommodations on the bridge.   

For more information on the Highway 149 tree replanting, or Highway 149 road construction project, please visit the project website: www.mndot.gov/metro/projects/hwy149highbridge.

To request an ASL or foreign language interpreter, call 651-366-4720. To request other reasonable accommodations, call 651-366-4718; the Minnesota Relay service toll-free at 1-800-627-3529) TTY, Voice or ASCII) or 711, or email your request to adarequest.dot@state.mn.us.

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Preferred High Bridge redesign includes protected sidewalks, calmer traffic

A design concept for the High Bridge includes a protected sidewalk, similar to the one on the Wabasha bridge.

A design concept for the High Bridge includes a protected sidewalk, similar to the one on the Wabasha bridge.

If current plans move forward, the new High Bridge will feature calmer car traffic, bike lanes, and a separated sidewalk after reconstruction in 2018.

Members of the MnDOT community advisory committee were presented with two concepts at a meeting last night with project manager Tara McBride. One concept keeps basically the existing design but with wider sidewalks, and another has a barrier-protected sidewalk similar to the Wabasha bridge. The group unanimously endorsed the latter.

The current bridge has 12-foot-wide car lanes, an 8-foot shoulder that is used as a bike lane but not officially designated as such, and a 6-foot sidewalk. The new design would feature car lanes that are 10-11 feet, bike lanes that are 5.5-6.5 feet, and an 8-foot-wide sidewalk.

For context, 12 feet is a fairly standard lane width, including on freeways. The narrower lane widths are not uncommon on city streets, and even some sections of I-94 have 11-foot lanes. Plans call for lowering the speed limit to 30 mph, which will have a negligible impact on driving times as the bridge is only 1/2-mile long and has traffic signals near both ends, McBride noted.

It’s important to note that the design is not final, and still has a further review and approval process within MnDOT.

MnDOT engineers considered more than 20 different design concepts based on feedback from community workshops, but all but the final 2 had been rejected as not technically feasible or prohibitively expensive.

Some community members had suggested an asymmetrical layout, with car traffic on one side and a wider pedestrian boulevard on the other, but structurally the bridge couldn’t handle that type of load shift without millions of dollars in modifications. Other suggested features, such as bump-out viewing areas, would also add considerable cost.

Another important consideration was whether booms on inspection trucks could still extend over the side and underneath the bridge. That limits the position and height of barriers, however, the proposed concepts shouldn’t present an issue, McBride said.

A local suicide prevention group has pushed for railings to be made higher to prevent people from jumping off the bridge, that portion of the design is still in early stages but railings will likely be higher and more difficult to climb. Other issues such as lighting and design elements will depend largely on how much the city of St. Paul contributes to the project.

The design concept that’s moving forward represents a more balanced approach to serving the needs of everyone who uses the bridge, while keeping in mind cost and technical limitations. The MnDOT team has been very responsive to community feedback.

MnDOT staff will be on hand to answer questions at tonight’s bridge walk, which is organized by the Smith Bridge Community Health Forum. The group meets at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the top of the bridge (Smith & Cherokee).

Sign up for the Smith Avenue/High Bridge community advisory committee

(MJI Photos / Creative Commons)

(MJI Photos / Creative Commons)

MnDOT is taking applications from community members for an advisory committee to provide input on the Highway 149 (Smith Ave/Dodd Road/High Bridge) reconstruction project.

This will be a transformative project for the neighborhood and will likely set the tone for development for years to come. This will also be an opportunity to discuss implementing the provisions in the Smith Avenue Revitalization Plan.

From the news release:

The Community Advisory Committee will advise the project management team on the final design of both the bridge and roadway components of the project. The committee is intended to include residents, businesses, property owners and organizations for the purpose of advising development of the project and representing the diversity of interests that can be found along the Highway 149 (Smith Avenue and Dodd Road) corridor. The diversity of interests desired for representation on the Community Advisory Committee include:

  • Residents (homeowners, renters)
  • Businesses operating within the project limits (a range of size and business type)
  • Major employers
  • Institutions and schools
  • Travelers along Smith Avenue and Dodd Road (existing transit users, bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers)
  • Other special interests

Meetings will be held on weeknights between March 2016 and October 2017 (there will be eight meetings total), locations are yet to be determined but will be along the Smith/Dodd corridor. The deadline to apply is Feb. 19, and selected applicants will be notified in early March.

To apply, download the application via this link.

MnDOT High Bridge / Smith Avenue workshop to be held August 24

The first of three public meetings on the Smith Avenue / High Bridge reconstruction project will be held Monday August 24, from 5-7 p.m., at Bad Weather Brewery at 414 W. 7th. (never heard of it? It’s in the former repair shop space at Smith and McBoal, across from DiGidio’s).

Two additional workshops will be held on the West Side and in Mendota Heights, information will be posted here as soon as they are scheduled.

Full news release is pasted below. Please help spread the word!

The public is invited to learn and provide input about future improvements to Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—in St. Paul, West St. Paul and Mendota Heights at a community workshop scheduled for Aug. 24.

The workshop will be held from 5 – 7 p.m. at Bad Weather Brewery, 414 West Seventh Street in St. Paul.

The proposed project is scheduled for spring 2018 through fall 2018. Work includes:

  • Reconstructing the bridge deck of the Smith Avenue High Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
  • Resurfacing Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—between West 7th Street in St. Paul and I-494 in Mendota Heights.
  • Improving drainage, sidewalks and pedestrian accessibility.
  • Replacing signals at five Highway 149 intersections.
  • Constructing an additional left turn lane from westbound I-494 to southbound Dodd Road in Mendota Heights.

The project will extend the lifespan of Highway 149 and the High Bridge, and provide a smoother road surface and improved ride for motorists.

This work is expected to result in the complete closure of the High Bridge for one construction season.

Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the overall project, get details about specific project elements and provide feedback on potential improvements to the High Bridge, Smith Avenue and Dodd Road. Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and project staff will be on hand to answer questions and gather input.

Two additional project workshops will be held in the coming months. Times and dates will be announced when they are finalized.

Please visit the project website for upcoming event dates and times, in addition to project updates, at www.mndot.gov/metro/projects/hwy149highbridge.

To request an ASL or foreign language interpreter, call 651-366-4720. To request other reasonable accommodations, call 651-366-4718; the Minnesota Relay service toll-free at 1-800-627-3529) TTY, Voice or ASCII) or 711, or email your request to adarequest.dot@state.mn.us.