Here’s an early Christmas present for some of the businesses and residents on the western end of University Avenue in St. Paul: After a long season of light-rail construction, traffic in the area returns to normal, or close to it.
For the first time since March 21, there will be two lanes in each direction on three miles of University between Emerald Street and Hamline Avenue, although there still may be some temporary lane closures for cleanup work and construction on the rail area in the middle of the street.
Crews started before dawn with barrier removal and turning on traffic lights; it could take the better part of the day to have all the lanes ready for action, said Laura Baenen, communications manager for the project.
And the Cleveland/Transfer intersection on the north side of University reopened this week.
Baenen said they’re one-third of the way — 32 percent, to be exact — through the construction work on the Central Corridor light rail line, which will connect the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis. via University Avenue. Trains are scheduled to start operating on the line in 2014.
They’re still another major construction season coming on University next year, as crews rebuild the roadway from Hamline Avenue to Rice Street.
The reopening of the roadway is good news for City Hall, which hears regularly from businesses owners on the torn-up stretch about how customers are having trouble getting in and out of the area.
“The mayor is thrilled,” said Joe Campbell, Mayor Chris Coleman’s spokesperson. “He’s very excited that a third of the project has been completed.”
Said the mayor in a statement:
“The Central Corridor is a historic investment which will connect our residents to jobs, businesses and schools throughout the region. Local businesses are the backbone of Saint Paul’s economy, and we have provided unprecedented support to help them through construction so they are able to take advantage of all the benefits and opportunities that will come with the line’s completion. I am satisfied that construction on University has finished on schedule, leaving those businesses open and accessible in time for winter.”