Log Jam at Old Steepy

Thinking of driving to Uptown this summer? Better think again.Thinking of driving to Uptown this summer? Better think again.

Minneapolis taxpayers are not paying for the Hennepin/Lyndale project alone. Just under $320,000 of the effort's two-million-dollar price tag will be paid out of city coffers, while the rest is to come from state gas-tax funds earmarked for local road upkeep. But the state's involvement in the project has not been altogether good news: Had it not been for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, explains Sabin, the construction could have been completed in two to three months. But MNDoT worried that standard road-construction equipment might damage the Lowry tunnel's waterproof membrane and shake ceramic tiles right off the tunnel's walls.

As a result, the city agreed to gentler digging and demolition techniques. "We have to saw-cut 50,000 square feet of road into four-foot squares and lift the pieces into a truck and cart them away--a giant concrete wedding cake," Sabin explains. "We've never done anything like this before." Tiptoeing around the tunnel, Sabin says, will add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost and a healthy month to the projected construction time.

Despite the headaches, says McDonald, the project is unavoidable. "This is not a negotiable item. We have to do it, and it will be better." She notes that the new alignment will allow for a bike lane and bridge connecting the Wedge neighborhood to Loring Park--something cycling advocates have requested for a long time.

Actually, says city project engineer Kristine Vieth, South Minneapolitans may want to start oiling up their two-wheelers even sooner. She says the city's bicycle coordinator has suggested a few bypass routes, including the Cedar Lake Trail and Pleasant Avenue. "Lane closings begin on May 10," notes Vieth, "and we're anticipating that, after the first few days, people are going to think this is ridiculous."

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