March 2, 2021

MnDOT seeks ideas to unclog Hwy. 65

Travel along Hwy. 65 through Spring Lake Park, Blaine and Ham Lake could look a lot different according to plans being developed as part of the Highway 65 Corridor Safety and Mobility Study.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is eyeing changes to Hwy. 65 between County Road 10/Mounds View Boulevard and Bunker Lake Boulevard to address capacity, access, mobility and safety issues that have long plagued the north metro highway.

MnDOT will unveil preliminary solutions during a virtual open house from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday. Though the meeting will be online, participants must first register at bit.ly/hwy65mtg to attend.

It’s been a long time coming. MnDOT studied the corridor in 2005, but since then residential and business development has brought with it a huge increase in traffic. The solutions proposed 15 years ago are out of date and, even if still viable, would be too costly to implement with existing funding levels, MnDOT officials said.

So MnDOT went back to the drawing board and, with public input, came up with a variety of innovative intersection designs. Since the highway has different characteristics and needs, MnDOT divided the 8-mile segment into three sections, offering different treatments for each section.

Several options are on the table in the southern section between 81st and 95th avenues NE., including a traditional diamond interchange controlled with traffic signals at County Road 10. Access to and from Hwy. 65 at 85th and 89th avenues would be limited to right turns only, and a bridge would be built at 87th Avenue NE. to allow east-west traffic to cross the highway.

Another design concept, called a Displaced Left Turn, would bring big changes for drivers making left turns at the Hwy. 10 interchange. Drivers on southbound Hwy. 65 would enter a left turn lane well before the interchange. The lane would take them across opposing traffic, run a short distance along the east side of Hwy. 65, then on to eastbound Hwy. 10.

Drivers going north on Hwy. 65 would pass Hwy. 10, then veer onto a ramp on the right side of the highway. Drivers would make a U-turn under Hwy. 65 and then circle back to access westbound Hwy. 10.

Farther north, between 95th and 117th avenues NE., a new interchange would go in at 109th Avenue, three existing intersections would be rebuilt with roundabouts under Hwy. 65, and frontage roads would be used to funnel traffic between intersections and limited access points.

At Bunker Lake Boulevard in Ham Lake, one plan calls for stoplights to be removed and replaced with a new interchange. Another concept calls for eliminating left turns at the intersection by directing drivers onto a frontage road, then through a roundabout beneath Hwy. 65 to complete their turn. A third possibility would force drivers on Hwy. 65 making left turns at Bunker Lake to pass through the intersection, then make a U-turns through an opening in the median a short distance downroad and circle back.

MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard said there is no timeline for construction.

“We know there are issues out there, and we are thinking outside the box for concepts that will get traffic moving efficiently and safely,” said Barnard, noting that plans also have to consider needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. “We want to know what the public is thinking. The more people we get to watch and weigh in, the more ideas we get.”

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail [email protected], tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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