Waconia eyes improvements along Hwy 5 corridor

CherryStreetCMYKA number of long desired improvements for the Highway 5 corridor in Waconia are one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to the actions of the Waconia City Council during its meeting on April 15.
City officials are working on a project that would provide long term safety, capacity, and preservation improvements to accommodate the needs of the Highway 5 corridor through the city of Waconia. As explained by City Administrator Susan Arntz, the city has the opportunity to pursue two grants from the state of Minnesota that would help fund the project, which has an estimated $10.3 million price tag.
“The primary focus (of both grants would be) improving the access at Cherry Street, which is just west of the hospital and Lakeview Clinic, near Ground Round and some other vacant properties and a lot of property that we’ve developed over the last two years,” Arntz said during a presentation about the project.
“The project that we’re working on essentially starts at Olive Street or CR 57 and works west all the way to past Oak Avenue, out to 94th Street,” Arntz continued. “Our project includes a traffic light at Cherry Street. It includes trail connectivity in places where trails don’t exist, basically the south side of Highway 5. This project includes the underpass just east of Oak Avenue, which has been a council priority for the last couple of years.”
The project also conceptually includes alignment for a future frontage road system and ponding.
“The exciting thing about this plan is that it provides for two through lanes plus turn lanes within the pavement corridor that we have already. It will improve connectivity on both sides of the highway,” said Arntz, who noted that pedestrians would have the ability to cross the highway both safer and faster.
At the meeting, the council authorized the pursuit of grants from the two state programs for the project.
The first program is the Corridor Investment Management Strategy (CIMS) Grant, a program that provides awards from $200,000 to $10 million. The second is the Transportation Economic Development (TED) Grant, which could provide up to $7 million. The city can only receive funds from one program, not both.
City officials are hoping to receive up to $4.5 million from one of the grant programs for the project. Under that scenario, grant dollars, along with other state and MnDOT funding, would cover approximately 77 percent of the project’s cost. The remaining funding would come from the city ($1.95 million or 19 percent), Carver County ($250,000 or 3 percent), and private investment ($100,000 or 1 percent).
The majority of city funding would come from Municipal State Aid money along with Utility and Capital Improvement Funds. Arntz said it’s not the city’s intent to use other funding sources but a variety of factors, such as the final amount of grant dollars, could result in the city levying for a small portion of the project.
The city expects to learn if it will receive grant money sometime this summer. If the city doesn’t receive any grant money, Arntz said the project would likely move forward but it would not be as comprehensive and the timing of the project could be pushed further into the future.
However, Arntz was optimistic about the city’s chances to receive funding through one of the grants.
“What is especially beneficial in our favor, is the CIMS program takes a look at pedestrian connections and connectivity in the community, access to health care facilities, access to educational facilities, many, many of the things that this application … hit on. It’s a core component of our infrastructure in the middle of our community,” she told the council. “When done, this corridor and roadway should feel like a parkway through the center of our community and not so much like a state highway, which currently Highway 5 kind of has a look and a feel of a trunk highway. An underpass would be an amazing trail enhancement for our community.”
Several council members indicated excitement about the project. Councilor Kent Bloudek thought it was a great plan, one that would enhance the safety and look of the entire corridor.
Mayor Jim Nash said it was one of the best projects the city could be talking about right now.
“Our community is growing exponentially,” he said. “This addresses a huge problem next to the county’s largest employer. It allows commerce to flow freely even all the way out to Norwood, this will improve what they’re seeing out there, so this is a great project. I am in big favor of it.”
At this point, the project remains subject to many variables. However, if the funding comes through and the rest of the process goes smoothly, construction would be expected to occur from spring to fall in 2015.

Contact Todd Moen at todd.moen@ecm-inc.com

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