The Minnesota Department of Transportation ripped up streets in a south Minneapolis neighborhood last fall — and then didn’t come back this spring to fix them.
Naturally, that made residents quite unhappy.
MnDOT on Friday finished repaving streets and installing sidewalks on 2nd Avenue S. and E. 39th Street immediately behind the Interstate 35W noise wall. But if it had not been for neighborhood residents continually pestering MnDOT, the job may not have gotten done.
The lingering construction zone stemmed from a sewer repair job MnDOT took on for the city of Minneapolis last year in conjunction with the massive construction project rebuilding I-35W between downtown Minneapolis and 43rd Street.
Crews are replacing the pavement on the 50-year-old freeway with new concrete, repairing or replacing 11 bridges, installing a MnPass lane and putting in a new bus station at Lake Street as part of the $240 million project. MnDOT is spending four years rebuilding the freeway and won’t be done until 2021.
The project has a lot of different components being worked on simultaneously, said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens.
One of those components was fixing the sewer line. Last fall, MnDOT ripped up and closed 2nd Avenue S. and E. 39th Street for a few months to make repairs.
Crews finished replacing the sewer line just before winter hit, put down a single layer of asphalt and reopened the streets. But drivers still had to dodge excavations where manholes protruded from the street, making it something of an obstacle course. Portions of sidewalks on the corners were not replaced.
John Champe, who lives near the area, figured MnDOT would come back in the spring and finish the job. But it didn’t.
“I started calling when the snow melted,” he said.
Over and over he called MnDOT and asked the agency to come back and finish the job. He talked with representatives who answered the I-35W construction hotline. Each time he got the same response.
“They said it was a priority and that they would come back and finish my street,” Champe said.
Seeing no action, Champe turned up the heat. He created fliers and distributed them to neighbors urging them to call MnDOT, too.
“Living in an Eternal Construction Zone?” the flier read. “I live at 2nd Avenue and 39th Street … and there are many other streets that also have unfinished projects that just need a little work to give us our neighborhoods back. Nothing will change unless we all pressure MnDOT.”
Champe also sent a letter to the Lyndale Neighborhood Association to share with city officials.
“My neighborhood has borne the brunt of the burden of the 35W project, and now we are being further penalized by being abandoned by MnDOT,” part of the letter reads.
Aeikens apologized and said cleanup in the neighborhood got lost in the shuffle.
“It got set aside,” he said. “We apologize to people who live in that neighborhood. We wish we were able to have gotten to it sooner.”
The lesson here, Aeikens said, is that people should not hesitate to call MnDOT and be persistent. That worked in Champe’s case.
“We rely on people to be the eyes and ears and help us out when things might be out of the ordinary,” Aeikens said.
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