Road construction + traffic = headache for Mounds View High

Deputies directed traffic during the morning commute at the intersection of Lake Valentine Road and Old Highway 10/Snelling Avenue. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)
Deputies directed traffic during the morning commute at the intersection of Lake Valentine Road and Old Highway 10/Snelling Avenue. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)
Construction on the County Road F bridge over Interstate 35W means only one road leads to Mounds View High School. (source map courtesy of Google)
Construction on the County Road F bridge over Interstate 35W means only one road leads to Mounds View High School. (source map courtesy of Google)

A new school year normally brings with it a little bit of worry and stress. However, students and faculty at Mounds View High School are facing some extra road-related stress the beginning of this academic year.

Road construction projects have increased traffic congestion around MVHS.

Three bridges over Interstate 35W, County Road F, County Road E and Highway 96, around MVHS, had been under construction since this summer. Principal Jeff Ridlehoover said he found out the full scope of the construction late last winter. 

At that time, most construction was supposed to be completed by the time school started, which was welcome news for Ridlehoover.

“We heard about that and [we] were cautiously excited because we thought it would be a good thing for our kids and our families,” Ridlehoover said.

The County Road F/10 Street NW bridge over Interstate 35W was torn down and is being expanded. Ridlehoover said this will make it safer for students who cross this bridge.

However, construction on County Road F was pushed back because of setbacks in the bidding process. This means the project probably won’t be completed until at least November, well into the first half of the year. Estimated cost for the project according to the Minnesoa Deparmtne of Transportation is $4.5 million.

Because of this, there is only one way onto campus: Westbound Lake Valentine Road, which turns into County Road F, making it difficult to get to and from school.

Ridlehoover said there were already plans in place over the summer to reroute busses. They also sent out a newsletter to families over the summer to let them know about the impending construction.

“On day one, we found out immediately that there were issues, [we] just couldn’t handle the congestion,” Ridlehoover said.

In a newsletter sent out after the first day, Ridlehoover acknowledged the extra traffic was problematic. He said the school would work with MnDOT and Ramsey County to figure out what other measures could be put in place to ease congestion.

Every morning, there is about a 25-minute window where all the busses and  cars are arriving, making an already bad problem worse.

Adding to the congestion problem is non-school related traffic being rerouted to the area because of other projects. There is roadwork happening on side streets around the school. All of these things together created what Ridlehoover described as “a perfect storm.”

After working with MnDOT and Ramsey County, more measures were put in place to help ease congestion.

“We’re feeling very fortunate the county recognized it and stepped up to help us out,” Ridlehoover said.

There is now a three-way stop at County E2 and Old Highway 10/Snelling Avenue N. Ramsey County Sheriff deputies are directing traffic at the intersection of Old Highway 10/Snelling Avenue N. and Lake Valentine Road. They are also directing traffic near the school’s entrance.

Still, one recent morning traffic was backed up about a mile from the school’s entrance. An officer at the intersection of Old Highway 10/Snelling Avenue N. and Lake Valentine Road helped ensure each side had a chance to move, while cars struggled to leave the neighborhood around the school as well.

Dealing with the congestion is a daily battle, Ridlehoover said, adding while it’s nice to have these deputies directing traffic, they may not always be there. They still have their regular jobs to do.

“So, when there is a traffic accident and these officers are charged with protecting and serving the constituents of Ramsey County, they may not be able to stay on traffic detail,” Ridlehoover said.

Most of the traffic issues can be seen before school. A large part of MVHS’ student body stays after school for one reason or another. Ridlehoover said this helps cut down on some of the congestion after school.

As the year goes on, Ridlehoover asks for patience from faculty, students and families.

“It has improved dramatically since those measures were put in place. It’s still not great and we do not anticipate it to be perfect until the bridge is done,” Ridlehoover said.

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or staffwriter@lillienews.com.

 

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