The Minnesota Department of Transportation spent nearly four years installing underground concrete tanks along Interstate 35W in south Minneapolis to collect runoff.
MnDOT shut down the right lane of northbound I-35W between 42nd and 40th streets while crews installed the six tanks that are each large enough to hold 4.5 million gallons of water — enough to fill about seven Olympic-sized swimming pools. The tanks will hold the water until it is pumped through a pipe into a tunnel that leads to the Mississippi River.
That portion of the freeway is prone to flooding, which led the agency to spend $68 million on the first-of-its-kind project to give water that collects on the road a place to go.
At the same time, MnDOT shut down the southbound lane on adjacent 2nd Avenue S. while installing the tanks and building a retaining wall on the east side of the freeway. The agency used the closed lane on 2nd between 40th and 42nd streets to gain access to the construction site.
John Champe, who lives on 2nd Avenue, was excited when the project finally wrapped up this fall and his street reopened. But weeks later, he's still looking at "road closed" signs, orange barrels and even a graffiti-marred outhouse that crews left behind.
"There is still stuff there, and it doesn't make any sense," Champe said "Why?"
He shared his frustration with neighbors by posting a flyer on Nextdoor that read "MNDOT has no need for our street anymore, but refuses to finish cleaning up their mess" and urged them to pressure MnDOT to take action.
MnDOT does not have a specific work zone cleanup policy, spokesman Jesse Johnson said.
"The time it takes to clean up a construction site varies and is dependent on several factors, including, but not limited to, weather, the contractor's schedule and staff availability," Johnson said. "MnDOT strives to get project areas cleared as quickly as possible once a project is finished."
He said he was not able to say when MnDOT will remove whatever was left behind, but he promised, "Our crews are going to clean up the site as soon as they are able to."
Gold Line bridge opens
It's now a bit easier for motorists, bicyclists, scooter users and pedestrians to cross I-94 and travel between Oakdale and Woodbury.
Local, state and federal officials and representatives of the Metropolitan Council attended a ribbon cutting last Monday for the soon-to-open the Bielenberg Bridge connecting Bielenberg Drive in Woodbury with Helmo Avenue in Oakdale.
The $9.5 million bridge is expected to help relieve traffic congestion on major nearby roads such as Radio Drive but is also a key element for the Metro Gold Line. The bridge has lanes dedicated for the bus rapid transit line, which will run from Woodbury to downtown St. Paul starting in 2025.
When service begins, buses will provide frequent, all-day service in both directions. The 10-mile line will run primarily along I-94 and feature 16 stations and four park-and-rides.