Preparations are underway to build Granary Road next summer in order to reduce traffic on University Avenue and Fourth Street S. before construction for the light rail begins on University Avenue.
The road will be built in three phases and is projected to cost $43 million.
Kelly Moriarity, project manager of the city’s Department of Public Works said Granary Road will be an alternative route for cars and trucks because most of Washington Avenue will be closed
during construction for the light rail.
Another purpose is to increase redevelopment in unused areas of Southeast Minneapolis, part of a larger Southeast Minneapolis Industrial (SEMI) Plan that was amended in 2005, Moriarity said.
Construction of the first phase of the road, which will cost $9.2 million, will start at Malcolm Avenue and end at 25th Avenue S.E. The second phase will connect 25th and 17th avenues S.E., and the final phase is tentatively set to cut across 14th, 13th and 11th avenues S.E. to eventually connect to Central Avenue N.E. in Minneapolis.
Moriarity said the idea of having an alternative route to University Avenue has been planned for several years, but it wasn’t implemented “because it would be an expensive undertaking.”
The city is working to acquire land for the first phase, which will be funded by the state and tax increment finance districts. The city has yet to secure funds for the second and third phases.
Principal city planner Haila Maze said the road will eventually have a connection from Interstate 35W to Interstate 35E, but she said this part of the plan has made some St. Paul residents anxious.
“The St. Paul neighborhoods at the border with Minneapolis are sensitive so we’ve been holding off on making that connection,” she said. “We’re not sure if we’re going to cut off that phase, but we’ll at least connect the road to Highway 280, because that’s a logical connection.”
But, she added, if the whole project isn’t accomplished, it may be a waste of time. “Minneapolis wants to see the whole creation finished,” she said.
Jan Morlock, University of Minnesota director of relations, said the University District Alliance supports the construction of the road.
“Plans for this have existed for a long time, and we hope this will help with the potential for new uses in the southeast industrial area,” she said.
Businesses in southeast Minneapolis also support the construction of the road. Michael McLaughlin, president of the Southeast Business Association, said businesses fully support the first two phases because of the potential for Granary Road to open development.
“It’ll be one more alternative for routing trucks in and out of the industrial area, so opening it up will encourage long-term economic development,” he said.
Arvonne Fraser, president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said residents fully support the first phase but are anxious about remaining phases.
“Roads are for heavy traffic, so the question is, are we going to have trucks going through our neighborhood?” Fraser said. “The Central Corridor is going to take more traffic off Washington [Avenue], so our concern is all that’s being done is dumping traffic on the neighborhood.”
She also said residents aren’t sure where the road is supposed to end. Instead of cutting through residential areas, Fraser said an alternative could be to connect Granary Road through wider streets.
“I think we should end Granary Road before it gets to phase three,” she said. “The engineers have to go back and think again because they’re proposing a road that hasn’t been planned out.”
Moriarity admitted the details for the third phase haven’t been determined at this point.
“That’s something we’re intending to work more on with Marcy-Holmes,” she said. “We want to hire consultants and do a study to evaluate how we can connect the road to other areas.”
She said another issue has been acquiring some of the land from rail companies for the first phase — a complicated process.
“It’s going to be challenging, but everyone knows that doing this will open up development in the area,” she said.
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