OPH council faces decision: Panel’s task: Are 2 bridge project maps consistent

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The question facing Oak Park Heights City Council members at a special meeting Thursday seems simple.

Determine if two maps — one drawn in 1995, the other drawn this year — of work on Minnesota Highway 36 and its frontage roads in connection with the St. Croix River Crossing project are consistent.

Judging from comments during a special council work session spent pouring over maps and drawings showing the many changes coming on Minnesota 36 and its frontage roads, the council’s decision might not be easy.

City Engineer Chris Long spent about one hour Tuesday night explaining all the changes planned on Minnesota 36, its north and south frontage roads, other nearby city streets, trails, even storm water retention ponds for construction of the Minnesota approach to the bridge.

After listening to Long’s presentation and looking at maps and drawings, City Administrator Eric Johnson said the council is left with one task.

“The council has to determine if the two layouts are consistent with each other,” he said. “It’s really about the two layouts. In 1995, the city gave consent (to the project).”

If the council decides the ‘’95 and ‘’12 maps are consistent, that decision is the council’s OK for work to proceed, Johnson said. If members decide the maps are inconsistent, the matter goes to a state board of appeal made up of representatives picked by Oak Park Heights, the state Department of Transportation and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

While discussion about changes along the Minnesota 36 corridor shown on the maps was low key, there was a brief dustup when Mayor David Beaudet adjourned the meeting without giving bridge project manage Jon Chiglo the opportunity to address questions and concerns raised by council members during the map review.

Chiglo was eventually allowed to address questions about aspects of the project and he stressed that MnDOT wants to be the city’s partner on the project.

“I know there has been a long history between the city and us,” Chiglo said. “But there’s flexibility here.”

Beaudet, however, expressed frustration over the council not having enough time to study the two Minnesota 36 maps.

“This is the first time we’ve got a plan by MnDOT and got to review it,” he said. “I would have preferred to have a public hearing. We won’t have a public hearing with our own citizens.”

But Councilman Mark Swenson said it is time for the city council to make a decision using the information it has.

“We’ve got a project in front of us. We’ve got the plans in front of us. We’ve got to make a decision,” he said.

The council holds a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the City Hall council chambers to act on the consistency of the 1995 and 2012 maps. The meeting is open to the public.