The Shady Oak Road project is moving forward, despite no solid plan to help the businesses that will lose their parking and, possibly, their livelihood.
On Monday night, the Minnetonka City Council approved the preliminary layout for the Shady Oak Road project from Excelsior Boulevard to north of Highway 7, on a 4-1 vote.
The city of Hopkins approved the plans on March 26 with many of the same concerns.
“I realize there’s a lot of faith being put on this two-track process,” said Lee Gustafson, Minnetonka’s city engineer. “But it’s true that if something isn’t worked out, this is what you’re approving tonight.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a complete package we can bring you, all signed, sealed and delivered.”
Gustafson said there is currently no answer to the parking issues, but community development departments in both cities are coming up with ideas. But, he added, “Those take willing sellers.”
There is a $7.2 million promise of federal funds for the project. The funds are dependent on deadlines. If the Hennepin County and the cities of Hopkins and Minnetonka want to keep the funds, plans need to continue. Otherwise the money goes back in the pot for someone else.
Because the boundaries of Minnetonka and Hopkins on Shady Oak Road are unpredictable, the cities decided to ignore the lines and work together on this project. So even though many of the businesses in question are actually located in Hopkins, plans must be agreed on by all parties involved in the project–Minnetonka, Hopkins and Hennepin County.
“There’s a number of players, and that’s why we don’t have an answer,” said Minnetonka’s City Manager John Gunyou.
They all agree on this: it’s complicated. Where the $3 million in “community works” money goes must be agreed upon by all three parties.
Plans for the Road
For the most part, all involved are pleased with the plans for the actual roadway. The biggest changes made from the 2006 plan for Shady Oak Road to today's are a smaller roadway (less pavement) and many less property acquisitions.
In this new plan, many of the business and private property acquisitions are partial. For taxpayers and the three governmental parties involved, this means the project will cost a lot less.
An added bonus this time around are improvements to the intersection of Highway 7 and Shady Oak Road. The roadways will meet at a 90 degree angle and new signals will be added. MnDOT has put in the money for this portion of the project.
Officials say Shady Oak Road needs repair due to poor pavement conditions, safety (high crash rates), capacity (traffic back-ups), pedestrian and bike facilities (no sidewalks or trails) and drainage.
“It’s the best plan we have in a challenging situation,“ said Minnetonka council member Brad Wiersum.
The project is expected to cost a total of $21,051,124. Federal funds will cover $7,280,000. The city of Minnetonka's share is $2,770,626, and the city of Hopkins will pay $2,855,755. The rest of the funding comes from Hennepin County, with a small portion coming from MnDOT.
Staff anticipates the project schedule to generally be as follows:
• Right of way agreement with cities, Spring 2012
• Environmental process: March–Nov. 2012
• Property acquisition: Nov. 2012–Dec. 2013
• Construction plan completion: Fall 2013
• Start construction: Spring 2014
• Complete construction: Fall 2015
In Minnetonka, council member Bob Ellingson voted against the preliminary layout.
This was the first decision made since an informational meeting for this project was hosted on Jan. 24.