With the reconstruction of Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley nearly complete, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is now turning its attention north, to a stretch of Highway 77 between Interstate 35E and Bloomington.
MnDOT officials are in the midst of an engineering study that will assess three options to relieve traffic congestion and create a managed MnPass lane.
Although they haven't settled on a solution yet, all three of the choices MnDOT is considering would bring big changes to area. On Tuesday, MnDOT spokesperson John Solberg presented the options to the Eagan City Council during an engineering study update. Here are the details of each possible plan:
- "Widen" Option
The first option MnDOT is weighing is the development of a MnPass lane all the way through the corridor. Under this proposal, MnDOT would construct the third lane from just south of McAndrews Road in Apple Valley to just north of Diffley Road in Eagan, then restripe the existing highway from Diffley across the Mississippi River to add another lane. One disadvantage, Solberg noted, is that the restriping would remove a bus shoulder on the Cedar Avenue bridge over the river.
- "Contraflow" Option
Under this option, MnDOT could temporarily expand northbound traffic during rush hour by moving a modified center concrete median over to borrow a lane from the southbound side of the highway. Traffic would be able to access the Contraflow lane using three points at 138th St. in Apple Valley, just north of Cliff Road in Eagan and near Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington.
- "Hybrid" Option
The third option MnDOT is evaluating is a combination of the previous two design plans. Under this proposal, MnDOT would build an additional lane from 138th Street in Apple Valley to just south of Diffley Road in Eagan, then develop a Contraflow lane extending from Diffley to across the river.
Get a closer look at each option by clicking on the slideshow above. Which option do you prefer? Weigh in using our comment section below.
As part of the study, the agency is also eyeing an improved connection between the road and the Cedar Grove bus station in Eagan—an important stop on the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority's new Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit route—also known as the Red Line.
Currently, buses must exit Hwy. 77 on Diffley Road and travel up Nicols Road in Eagan to reach the station—a detour that adds several minutes to bus trips. Because of the emphasis on high-speed public transportation as part of the Red Line route, planners want to develop a shorter link between the station and Hwy. 77 to shave time off the transit.
So far, Solberg said, MnDOT has developed seven different options for connections between the station and Cedar Avenue. Some of the options include the construction of new overpass or underpass crossing Hwy. 13 or the development of collector lanes running parallel to Hwy. 77.
To view the options, scroll up to the design proposals attached to this article and cycle through each option using the arrows that appear at the right and left sides of the renderings.
"Any and all of them could be a lot of work when you start adding bridges and underpasses," Solberg said. "We don’t think anything is going to be inexpensive."
MnDOT has already presented the reconstruction options at several open houses in Eagan and Apple Valley, and plans to issue recommendations early next year, with a final report expected in April or May of 2014, Solberg said.