Council approves Peabody Avenue access plan

MnDOT agrees to pave new connection at Lookout Trail

OPH rockOAK PARK HEIGHTS — A new Peabody Avenue connection to Lookout Trail that will be paved with asphalt instead of gravel was approved Tuesday by the Oak Park Heights City Council.

By approving the Peabody Avenue-Lookout Trail proposal, the city also agrees to maintain the new connection once it is finished.

The decision came about two weeks after the council held an hour-long public hearing on a state Department of Transportation plan to build a new Peabody Avenue-Lookout Trail intersection about 90 feet south of the now-closed Peabody connection with the Scenic Overlook drive.

The closing of the northern part of Peabody Avenue at the overlook drive is part of the St. Croix Crossing bridge project. MnDOT considers the overlook a historic site and plans to rebuild the site as part of bridge remediation work.

St. Croix Crossing Project Manager Jon Chiglo said the new Peabody-Lookout intersection will transition from a 6.5 percent grade to a 2 percent grade at the intersection.

“MnDOT would build this at our cost. We’re looking at building it in the next couple of months. It will be paved,” he said.

City Administrator Eric Johnson said the council had two options: accept MnDOT’s proposal or seek to restore the old Peabody Avenue connection with the overlook drive.
“Essentially, if you agree with the concept, you would give the staff direction to work with MnDOT. Really, you have two choices. One requires you to have maintenance costs and no short-term costs.”

At the May 29 public hearing, Chiglo told the council that an attempt to reopen the closed Peabody-overlook drive connection would require more studies and delay any connection work. Because the bridge project is receiving federal funds, federal rules require MnDOT protect any historic sites in the project area.

Faced with the two options, the council decided to proceed with the new Peabody-Lookout Trail connection. Neighborhood resident Aaron Bye, who spoke at the May public hearing and attended Tuesday’s meeting, was satisfied with the council’s decision and plans to pave the connection.

“When they’re talking about gravel, it’s very easy for ice to build up,” he said. “Then it’s not safe and we’re looking at a safe road.”

After the vote, Chiglo reminded the council that MnDOT and the city need to discuss language of a future agreement that would turn Lookout Trail back to the city.
“Currently, it’s MnDOT’s roadway,” he said. “It would become a city street if we can come to an agreement. I’m confident we can.”

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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