Plymouth recently inherited a century-old road from Hennepin County, and the west metro city has unveiled big plans to upgrade County Road 47 and give it a new name.
The city wants to make the winding and hilly two-lane road that cuts 4 miles across the northern part of the city driver-friendly and safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. To do that, Plymouth says it needs about $20 million in state funding.
On Wednesday, the city made its pitch to members of the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee who came to Plymouth as part of a tour looking at projects that potentially could be included in a bonding bill at the Legislature this year.
"It's an incredibly unsafe road," Mayor Jeffry Wosje told the 12-member committee. "You can't put a Band-Aid on something that needs a cast."
The project was not included in Gov. Tim Walz's $2.7 billion bonding plan unveiled earlier this week. But Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart, DFL-Minnetonka, whose district includes Plymouth, called the road "a huge safety concern" and arranged for the bonding committee's visit.
Built as a dirt road in the 1920s to mainly serve farmers in western Hennepin County, the road has not seen a lot of attention since. It wasn't paved until the 1960s. The road was scheduled to get a fresh coat of asphalt this year. But Plymouth felt the road needed more than that.
In recent years, homes have sprouted in neighborhoods bordering County Road 47, a new elementary school opened, and traffic volumes have exploded as the road became a transit corridor for residents of Medina, Corcoran and Maple Grove heading to the urban core. With a big increase in traffic — up to 12,000 vehicles a day — and an average of 20 crashes a year, Plymouth had a bigger vision for the road than just new blacktop.
The city wants to widen the shoulder from 2 feet to 6 feet, straighten dangerous curves and improve sightlines, put in trails for biking and walking, add turn lanes at signalized intersections, and put in new pavement and gutters between County Road 101 and Northwest Boulevard. The total cost would be $30 million.
Hennepin County wasn't going to make that kind of investment, said spokesman Colin Cox. So Plymouth and the county mutually agreed for the city to take ownership of the road.
"There was conversation about what the city wanted to do and their vision for the road," Cox said. "It frees them up to do what they want to do."
As part of the ownership transfer that took place in November, the county gave Plymouth $5 million, which is what it would have spent to repave the road. Plymouth came up with $5 million, but that left a $20 million funding gap.
"We are stepping up to make improvements after 100 years," Michael Thompson, Plymouth's director of public works, told the bonding committee. "We are looking for your help."
The city will rename the road later, Thompson said.
Sen. Tom Bakk, I-Cook, who chairs the bonding committee, said Plymouth has a chance to get state money because often projects not included in the original bonding bill can end up on the final list. That's part of the reason for the committee's tour, he said: "to see a project and see the people."
Wosje said he was encouraged by the committee's response, and he said the tour gave the city a chance to "whisper in their ear."