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We can all unleash a collective groan with news that the Minnesota Department of Transportation will shut down a portion of Hwy. 169 in the west metro for as long as a year. The saving grace is that the closure won't take place until the fall of 2016 when current construction projects on Hwy. 100 and I-494 are completed.

The agency will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hopkins Center for the Arts to share information about the $72 to $87 million project that calls for the highway to be closed in both directions between Bren Road and 7th Street. MnDOT is replacing both sides of the Nine Mile Creek Bridge, a 3,000-foot expanse over marsh land. The bridge will be closed from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017, said agency spokesman Nick Carpenter.

During the fall and next spring and summer, drivers also will experience periodic lane closures between Hwy. 55 in Golden Valley and Crosstown Hwy. 62 in Edina as MnDOT resurfaces the highway and tackles other maintenance projects and upgrades.

The condition of the Nine Mile Creek Bridge is bad enough that MnDOT's Bridge Office recommended it be replaced by 2020. The agency has opted for a full -year closure rather than rebuilding one side of the bridge and then the other, Carpenter said.

"A full replacement of the bridge is a significant undertaking," he said. "Consolidating all the Hwy. 169 improvement projects will reduce construction impacts from 3 years to 1 year and reduce the duration of traffic impacts"

Carpenter says the Hwy. 169 work is "expected to cause major traffic impacts," but by doing everything in one calendar year and not switching traffic from one side of the bridge to the other like when the Bloomington Ferry Bridge was worked on a couple summers ago will minimize confusion to drivers by having a work zone traffic plan that is fixed rather than continuously changing. It also improves construction quality and significantly reduces the risk to motorists and workers in the work zone, Carpenter said.

The agency also wants to finish work on Hwy. 169 before it tackles a rebuild and upgrade on I-35W in south Minneapolis in the area of Lake Street that is scheduled for 2018.

Specifically here is what MnDOT plans on doing:

  • Replace the bridge over Nine Mile Creek and marsh land in Edina, Hopkins and Minnetonka
  • Closing the sub-standard ramps on the west side of Hwy. 169 at 16th Street
  • Reconfiguring the entrance and exit ramps at Cedar Lake Road
  • Repairing the pavement between Hwy. 55 and the Crosstown
  • Repairing noise walls and replacing a concrete barrier

This summer has been brutal for west metro drivers with lane reductions and complete closures on Hwy. 100 and I-394 in St. Louis Park and Golden Valley, and I-494 through Plymouth and Maple Grove. Even though this project won't occur for another 12 months, just the thought of another long-running traffic disruption might bring drivers to wits end.