Variolite Street Reconstruction IP 20-01

Update June 12, 2020

The City of Ramsey has developed plans for the reconstruction of Variolite Street between Alpine Drive and 173rd Avenue in 2020. The bituminous pavement on Variolite Street is in very poor condition and requires total reconstruction. The street totals approximately 12,000 linear feet (2.28 miles) in length. A figure showing the location and scope of the proposed improvements which can be viewed here and is included on the cover sheet of the plans.

On September 10, 2019, the City Council authorized Staff to execute two proposals. Hakanson Anderson and Associates’ proposal for required topographic survey, spanning across the entire City-owned right-of-way of Variolite and into the adjacent cross streets. In addition, Northern Technologies Inc. proposal for required geotechnical work, including 61 soil and pavement borings spaced 100 to 500 feet along Variolite Street. This work was completed in the fall of 2019 and was necessary to allow the project to be completed in 2020.

On December 10, 2019, the City Council ordered the City Engineer to prepare a feasibility report to explore the necessity feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the proposed improvements by examining the existing conditions, scope of the proposed improvements, design alternatives, estimated costs and available funding sources, and determining whether the improvements should be completed as proposed or in connection with other improvements.

Following discussions with the Public Works Committee in 2019 and 2020, explored options for reducing speeds and improving pedestrian accommodations along Variolite Street in response to input received from area residents. According to the residents, excessive vehicle speeds have been observed along Variolite Street, and pedestrians do not feel safe trying to cross Variolite Street at 161st Avenue. The residents live in the Sweetbay Ridge and Woodlands residential neighborhoods and cross Variolite Street to go to Central Park or the regional trail along Armstrong Boulevard.

While preparing the Feasibility Report, Staff explored options for traffic calming along Variolite Street and pedestrian crosswalk improvements at 161st Avenue. Based on the analysis completed, Staff recommended reconstructing Variolite Street “as is” north of 163rd Lane, but reducing the overall pavement width from 40-feet to 34-feet south of 163rd Lane, allowing for a posted speed limit reduction from 50 mph to 40 mph. Staff also recommended constructing an 8-foot wide raised concrete pedestrian refuge island in the center of Variolite Street, north of 161st Avenue. This will improve pedestrian safety by allowing pedestrians to focus on one lane of travel at a time, by decreasing the overall distance a pedestrian needs to cross at one time, and by reducing vehicle speeds.

On April 14, 2020, the City Council accepted the Feasibility Report, which can be viewed here, and ordered final plans and specifications which were prepared with the following considerations.

Pavement Improvements

Variolite Street is a Municipal State Aid (MSA) street and must be reconstructed to current MSA design standards as regulated by the State Aid Division of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Given the MSA 9-ton pavement design requirement, the potential for heavy truck traffic, and the varying subgrade soils encountered along the corridor, the pavement was designed as a Stabilized Full Depth Reclamation (SFDR) with 4-inches of new bituminous pavement placed on top.

The surface elevation of Variolite Street generally remains unchanged. The new pavement width remains the same north of 163rd Lane, but will generally be 6-feet narrower south of 163rd Lane to facilitate a reduced posted speed limit of 40 mph. The pavement width at 161st Avenue will be 50-feet to accommodate the pedestrian crosswalk and turn lane improvements, and will transition back to a width of 34-feet within several hundred feet on both sides of the intersection.

To properly transition from the new edge of pavement to adjoining side streets and driveways, some paving work on side streets and driveways will be required, though such work is proposed to occur within City-owned right of way and easements, not on private property. In the unlikely event work needs to occur on private property, Staff will work with affected property owners to complete all work to the property owner’s satisfaction.

A segment of Variolite Street just north of Trott Brook about 150-feet long has been repaired several times over the years due to damage resulting from high groundwater. At times, groundwater has been observed flowing up through cracks in the pavement. To help prevent similar damage in the future, 4-inch perforated PVC drain tile will be installed under the new pavement section to drain the groundwater into the drainage ditches.

Stormwater Improvements

Stormwater is generally conveyed through existing drainage ditches along both sides of Variolite Street, with culverts extending under driveways, abutting side streets, and under Variolite Street at low points. Several culverts will be replaced with this project, though driveway culverts are not proposed to be replaced.

Municipal Utility Improvements

Trunk utility improvements are proposed with this project including the replacement of existing 10-inch force main trunk sanitary sewer with 21-inch gravity trunk sewer between 163rd Avenue and 166th Avenue, and the extension of 12-inch trunk watermain from 166th Avenue to 173rd Avenue. These improvements are consistent with the 2040 City of Ramsey Comprehensive Plan in support of future expansion of City sewer and water to northern areas of the City to serve future development, and are proposed to be constructed with this project to prevent unnecessary street reconstruction costs in the future.

Alternate Bids

Alternate Bid A - Specifies construction of a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) pedestrian actuated signal system with advance warning signs. This signal system utilizes flashing amber lights both at the pedestrian crosswalk and hundreds of feet in advance to alert drivers that a pedestrian is using the crosswalk. Attached are pictures of the existing RRFB at Armstrong Boulevard and Riverdale Drive for reference.

Alternate Bid B - Specifies construction of directionally bored high-density polyethylene (HDPE) watermain in lieu of open trenching ductile-iron pipe (DIP) watermain as specified in the base bid

Property Access

During the design process, Staff made every effort to keep all work within existing right of ways and easements and does not anticipate construction impacts to private properties. However, due to the nature of construction there will be temporary interruptions to access of driveways and side streets that directly access Variolite Street.

Sanitary sewer construction will be over 20-feet deep in areas between 163rd Avenue and 166th Avenue so Variolite Street will need to be closed to traffic during this construction. However, a temporary access road will be for the four (4) properties on 165th Lane, and for the properties with direct access to Variolite Street along this stretch. These residents have no other way of accessing their properties. Due to the depth of the sewer construction there may be periods of up to several hours when direct access to properties will not be available, though all residents will be able to access their property by the end of each work day. Staff will work closely with these residents during construction to minimize access interruptions.

In general, access will be maintained as best as practical during construction, and at the end of each workday all properties will be accessible. Access for emergency services will also be maintained throughout construction.

A public information meeting has not been conducted for this project due to the current COVID-19 pandemic does not allow for large in-person gatherings. Instead, letters were mailed on April 16th to 438 property owners most directly impacted by this project, including all properties with direct access onto Variolite Street and properties whose local streets directly connect to Variolite Street. A copy of this letter can be viewed here. This letter informed property owners of the proposed project, provided basic information on the project, and provided a link to this web page where more information is available, including contact information for City Staff working on the project. A second letter was mailed on May 7th to the 16 property owners who either directly access Variolite Street or live on 165th Lane. A copy of this letter can be viewed here. This letter informed the property owners of pending access interruptions associated with the deep sewer construction.

On June 5, 2020, five bids were received, opened, and tabulated, and were found to comply with the advertisement for bids. On June 9, 2020, the City awarded the construction contract for this street reconstruction project to Park Construction Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It will take approximately three weeks to execute the contract, schedule and conduct a preconstruction meeting, install advice construction signing, and mobilize equipment to the site. Construction should therefore start in July, and be substantially complete by November 30, 2020.

During the preconstruction meeting, the Contractor will provide information to the City including contact information for themselves and their subcontractors, a detailed project schedule, their hours and methods of construction, their plans for traffic control, and other construction related information. When construction is ready to begin, new letters will be mailed to the same 438 property owners to provide information on the proposed construction schedule, as well as new contact information during construction.

If you have questions, please contact Civil Engineer II, Joe Feriancek at or by phone 763-433-9893 with any questions related to this project in general.

Construction is currently anticipated to begin in early July. This web site will also be updated regularly during construction.