Residents and businesses celebrate as closures come to an end
For one last time, cars were prevented from traveling across the County Road 101 bridge near McGinty Road in Wayzata. The reason for the temporary roadblock? A quick ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the reopening of the revamped roadway, known locally as Bushaway Road.
Local residents, business owners and officials from Wayzata, Minnetonka and Hennepin County attended the Nov. 2 celebration on the recently completed bridge. After the ceremony, donuts were handed out to morning commuters waiting for green at the newly installed traffic lights – a gesture of gratitude following more than two years of road closures and detours.
“This is obviously a momentous moment for Wayzata and the communities around us. … It’s something we’re going to be proud of for a long time,” Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox said to the crowd.
Willcox also thanked local residents and Bushaway commuters for their patience – a sentiment echoed by Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider.
“We had all kinds of issues to deal with, so it required a lot of foresight, planning and patience. … I do think that we’ll end up with something that we can be proud of for many, many years,” Schneider said.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison also spoke at the event and thanked area residents for their engagement in the planning process leading to the start of the project.
“There was a vision that was articulated by the community and by the cities and I think we held true to that vision as we did the work,” Callison said, also calling to attention the hard work from designers, construction workers and city staff members.
“The result of this road speaks for their skill,” she said.
The county’s work began in the fall of 2014 on Bushaway, which was one of the first roads to be surveyed after Minnesota was established as a state in 1858. The reconstruction work included the widening and repaving of more than 2 miles of road from Wayzata to Minnetonka.
On the causeway, crews are working to finish installing the railing for the sidewalk, which will remain closed until completed. In the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad corridor, crews are working to complete the final segments of retaining wall and excavating the south side of the railroad corridor in preparation for moving the tracks back to their original alignment in the spring.
“They’ll work as long as they can work this season. We’re hoping that they’ll be able to get a significant portion of it finished,” said Wayzata City Engineer Mike Kelly.
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District will also continue working on its shoreline restoration project on the causeway.
When the work on Bushaway Road began, the construction contract for the project was set at $41 million. As work progressed, total spending came in at around $59.6 million, including $46.7 million for construction, according to Hennepin County information.
A goal of early 2016 was set for completion of the project with the new bridge being open for use by fall 2015. Reasons for the project’s delay and increased cost include the rising price of materials, extended railroad and sewer work and the redesign of sheet piling walls in the railroad corridor after unexpected soil conditions were found and a change in design requirements from Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Another unexpected adjustment had to be made after plans for a roundabout at the Breezy Point curve south of Gray’s Bay were scrapped. Plans were changed following the discovery of ancient Native American remains at the construction site in October 2014. When it was determined that the planned roundabout could not be built without further disrupting the burial mounds, new designs were drafted for a 30-mph curve with improved sight lines.
According to Hennepin County, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, with assistance from Hamline University anthropology and archaeology graduates, have stopped work this year and will continue next year. The work, which began in May 2015, has been focused toward recovering any artifacts and remains and restoring the burial mounds.
In the spring, Wayzata will roll out its landscaping plans for the road with a volunteer-led planting effort on Earth Day, April 22.
One of many volunteers already making plans to plant flowers and bare-root trees next year is Wayzata resident Jack Amdal, a former city council member who chaired the Bushaway Task Force from 2009-2014.
“I most definitely plan to be there in April for the final phases. It’s really exciting to see people using the trail and with the bridge open, that will just expand people’s walking loops around town. And most importantly, it’s getting full access back to the community,” Amdal said.
The task force was comprised of area residents who worked with Hennepin County throughout the design process. Discussions around refurbishing the 150-year old road had long been met with fear from residents that work would damage the historic nature of the road, a local scenic byway. Amdal said the primarily goal of the task force was to work hand-in-hand with the county “to preserve what we had there and the uniqueness of the road and minimizing any needed expansion of the road, but mostly being respectful of its history and its landscape.”
While construction plans were being drafted, the group strived to maintain the look and feel of the local scenic byway, minimize environmental impacts of the construction and respecting the homes of those living on Bushaway. Hennepin County also worked with residents when they were met with a negative response over an original plan calling for four lanes and the removal of approximately 800 trees. After feedback from residents and the task force, the reconstruction project was held to two lanes and the number of trees to be removed was reduced to around 200.
Also among the list of people patiently waiting for the road reopening has been local business owners who have felt the impact of the extended closures and detours into town.
“There is a big sense of relief for the Wayzata businesses to have this disruption behind them,” said Becky Pierson, president of the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce. “It has been a long and difficult reality for two years and they are excited to welcome back their customers and visitors.”
Pierson said the chamber is helping spread the news that the road is fully functional again by posting to its website and sharing updates through social media. And with the holiday season nearly here, business owners are hoping to welcome back a steady flow of shoppers using Bushaway to get to Wayzata.
“Behaviors are hard to change and people need to get back to their past traffic patterns again,” Pierson said.
Contact Jason Jenkins at [email protected]