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Work on the Hanson Boulevard Grade Separation (overpass) project will begin this spring. You may notice the general contractor on site, prepping for bridge construction and working on frontage roads south of the railroad tracks as well as side street improvements north of the tracks. Many public and private utilities must also be relocated during 2018.
The actual closure of Hanson Boulevard and the overpass construction will not begin until 2019. During the winter of 2018-2019, the roadway will be open to the public. But as soon as the weather permits in the spring of 2019, Hanson Boulevard will be closed to traffic in both directions so the overpass construction can begin. The alignment of the roadway will remain the same, but the road will be elevated.
The project involves not only the grade separation (overpass) but frontage roads being built on the south side of the bridge that will connect neighboring side streets. A pedestrian tunnel will also be built for a park trail corridor south of the railroad crossing.
Some homes along Hanson Boulevard have been demolished to make room for the project, but Anoka County has tried to minimize the impact to the area as much as possible. Anoka County has held several public open house events about the project, with the most recent being held February 22.
Joe MacPherson, Assistant Anoka County Engineer says, “Since the last open house, we’ve had some minor revisions to the plans. We received a lot of good public comments at our previous open house, so we’ve tried to address those in this new revision and we have tried to eliminate as many property impacts as we can. We tried to limit additional right-of-way impacts to neighboring properties, so we redesigned some frontage road attributes and some of the impacts on the main Hanson Blvd. corridor to try and squeeze everything in to the corridor that’s there today.”
The project, which will cost approximately $25 million, will be paid for with State funding along with partnership funding from CTIB (Counties Transit Improvement Board, 30%), Anoka County (10%), the City of Coon Rapids (5%) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (5%).
The Hanson Boulevard grade separation was the number one funding priority for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) due to safety concerns, along with rail improvements in Moorhead and Red Wing-Sturgeon Lake Road at Prairie Island. The Hanson Boulevard crossing has one of the highest exposure rates (high potential for crashes to occur) in the state due to high traffic volumes competing with the high volume of trains. Staged trains frequently block the crossing for 6-8 minutes (best case scenario) to 25 minutes or more at a time, which is having a negative impact on public safety emergency response. The Hanson Boulevard crossing is part of the busiest segment of rail line in the state, with an average of 81 trains a day.