Cities green-light Rice and I-694 project

file photo • With municipal consent out of the way, Ramsey County will begin early work on replacing the Rice Street bridge and interchange at Interstate 694 late this year.

Ramsey County needed municipal consent from three cities to get going on its planned $31.1 million replacement of the Rice Street bridge and interchange at Interstate 694, and now it has it.

At its Feb. 7 meeting — some two months after it began pondering the question — the Vadnais Heights City Council voted to grant the county municipal consent for the work.

“It’s good news,” said Beth Engum, the Ramsey County engineer who is managing the project.

Feb. 7 was about as late as the question of municipal consent could go before the start of work on the project would have been delayed by a year.

Now, prep work for the bridge replacement and rebuild of the interchange can get underway at the end of the year, Engum said.

The interchange is located at the confluence of Vadnais Heights, Little Canada and Shoreview. 

Though council members in both Little Canada and Shoreview raised concerns about the project — it features roundabouts, an engineer-loved traffic feature that tends to make elected officials anxious — each council granted municipal consent in routine fashion at January meetings.

Vadnais Heights, though, held out. It first discussed municipal consent in mid-December, and based on concerns about the roundabouts and the elimination of two business near the project, put off the decision.

Little Canada City Administrator Joel Hanson said it was Vadnais Heights’ right to have concerns over the project, especially because of the businesses to be lost and the work costs for which the city is responsible. All three cities will pay a portion of the project costs: Shoreview is paying $770,000, Vadnais Heights is paying $560,000 and Little Canada is paying $240,000.

Following further discussions with the county though, the Vadnais Heights council relented, with some minor conditions, and the feared delays for the project, which has been discussed for decades, were headed off.

“We can just move forward now,” said Engum.


– Mike Munzenrider

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